The word "insomnia" has become so ingrained in language and culture that even medical professionals have a difficult time telling the difference between what truly is insomnia and what is not. I have known many patients who came in to see me for insomnia that they have apparently had for many years, and treated often with multiple medications, but a short discussion later, they reveal the real problem.
The inability to fall asleep, stay asleep or wake up too early leading to the effects of insufficient sleep is defined as insomnia, and for it to be a medical diagnosis as a health disorder it is usually required to be of sufficient duration of at least a month. An individual with insomnia is unable to get sufficient sleep no matter what. Of course the word sufficient means the amount of sleep required by a person's body in order to feel fully rested. That number can also considerably vary by individual ranging from five to ten hours per day for an adult.
Herein lies the issue: First, how much sleep do you think you need, and are you really unable to sleep that much? Second, really, given the opportunity, can you really not get the amount of sleep you truly need? The differentiation is vital because it leads to the type of treatment that is most likely to help.
Many people have been stuck in a bad sleep routine for so long they have no idea how much sleep they need in a day. Young parents and middle age workers being a prime example of busy lives and responsibilities, find a short amount of time late in the evening to be by themselves to unwind from the day. They end up going to sleep late, wake up tired the next day and struggle through the day. They don't have insomnia. Send them on a vacation and they do just fine. In the busyness of life they often lose sight of how much sleep is necessary for them to feel charged up and function at their best, leading to excessive caffeine use.
Young adults and teens often report they can not fall asleep at a reasonable time, but given the chance they will sleep in, sometimes all day, to obtain the full amount of restful sleep they need. They stay up late and have to wake up early, struggling to make it to classes, then sleep till very late on weekends. They don't have insomnia. Given the opprtunity they sleep well and enough.
Retirees most often end up sleeping in fragments. My own mother for example, an eighty year old, has forever complained of not being able to sleep well at night. She falls asleep around ten, to wake up at two, then sleeps from four till about six. She will wake up, eat breakfast, then nap for an hour, spend a few hours sitting around then nap again for a couple of hours. The fragmentation of sleep, which is common biologically in the elderly anyway, gives the impression as if they have insomnia but in fact they are getting the amount of sleep they need, but only in fragments.
By any means, my implication is not that these are not real problems of real people. My point is that to solve these problems the answer is not in a prescription of Ambien or trazodone. And the argument here is not that these are bad medicines, but that it is the wrong answer simply because it does not address the real problem.
We shall continue this discussion.
Deep Relaxation Training at Sehatu Sleep, designed with sleep medicine and psychology principles, empowers people by giving them skills to turn the mind switch on and off on command and to relax when needed. Classes can be attended via Skype.
Sehatu Sleep and Yoga Studio, located in Granite Bay, CA, also provides a variety of Yoga classes, including Yin, Gentle and Restorative Yoga, as well as Meditation classes, for individuals who are interested in practicing a healthy lifestyle at any age, starting at any time in their life at any skill level.