Insomnia: what is it, what are the risks and how to treat

According to the most recent survey by the Brazilian Sleep Association (ABS), more than 30 millions of Brazilians suffer from insomnia. Worldwide, it is estimated that about % to 30% of people have problems at bedtime. But what is insomnia after all? Why do we suffer from this condition, given that we were “programmed” to have hours of rest and peaceful sleep?

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Insomnia is classified as a sleep disorder, making people unable to catch it sleep or cannot stay asleep for as long as necessary. The condition ends up resulting in health problems such as hypertension, weight gain and diabetes, in addition to behavioral and social problems. Not being able to sleep well can be detrimental to your health, as most adults need about seven to nine hours of sleep a night. In addition to the amount of time sleeping, sleep needs to be of quality, without many night awakenings, much less those that take a long time to sleep again.

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Symptoms and types

A person suffering from insomnia will have symptoms such as waking up earlier than they should, having difficulty falling asleep and waking up in the middle of the night, either once, twice, or several times. In more severe cases, sleepless nights become part of the insomniacs’ routine. Without proper sleep, the individual will also experience extreme tiredness during the day, irritability, bad mood, depression, memory or concentration problems, among other symptoms.

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There are two types of insomnia: short-term and chronic. While the first consists of losing sleep from time to time, usually after triggering situations, such as stress, the second characterizes those who are unable to sleep for about three times a week, in a process that already lasts for three months.

There are several factors that contribute to the emergence of insomnia, involving psychological and neurological disorders, anxiety, depression, chronic pain, discomfort in the digestive system, hormonal changes, use of medication, among other issues. But it can also arise as a result of external factors such as changing jobs, relationships, financial difficulties, poor diet and unhealthy lifestyle. In addition, insomnia can be primary (unrelated to any other medical or environmental condition) or secondary (derived from some disorder or change in life).

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Diagnosis and treatment

Even if you identify with the symptoms mentioned above, the diagnosis needs to be made with medical help. There is no specific test to find out whether a person has insomnia or not, but psychiatrists can ask for blood tests, sleep tests and information about their routine, which can be noted in a diary. Once diagnosed, a person can be treated with short-term medications to help regulate sleep, but the main treatment needs to be with special therapies. In it, the professional will help the patient to discover what is causing sleep deprivation, then treat the cause and recommend necessary changes in the patient’s lifestyle.

Meanwhile, It is possible to prevent insomnia by reducing or cutting caffeine consumption, especially at night, and also to avoid eating very heavy meals before bed and to reduce tobacco consumption. The patient still needs to create a routine, going to bed at the same times and turning off electronics such as smartphones, televisions, computers, among others, about 11 minutes before bed, keeping the environment dark.

Source: Cleveland Clinic

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