Insomnia in Young Adults
12 September 2021
What is insomnia?
Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that occurs when a person has a hard time initiating and maintaining sleep. An insomniac tends to wake up too early and then has trouble going back to sleep. Even the little sleep they get, despite the opportunity of a full night’s sleep, is of poor quality and non-restorative.
Insomnia can be of two types:
1. Primary insomnia- This type of insomnia refers to sleeplessness that cannot be attributed to an existing cause, be it medical, psychiatric or environmental.
2. Secondary insomnia- Unlike primary insomnia, the symptoms of secondary insomnia could stem from the following factors:
· Primary medical illness
· Mental disorder
· Other sleep disorders
· Use, abuse, or exposure to certain substances
Who are young adults and why do they suffer from insomnia?
A young adult is a person who is in their late teens or early twenties.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine lists ‘Inadequate sleep hygiene' as a common condition present in young adults. This refers to bad sleep habits that keep a person awake or disrupt their sleep cycle.
Some reasons young adults suffer from insomnia are:
· Stress- Almost every young adult can relate to stress caused by unfinished work, deadlines, and exams. These concerns tend to keep the mind active, even at night, thus making it difficult to fall asleep.
· Bad sleeping habits- These include irregular sleep timings, stimulating activities, and/or watching screens before bedtime.
· Late evening meals or snacks- Eating something right before bedtime might lead to heartburn, a backflow of food from the stomach to the esophagus, and physical discomfort.
· Mental illness- Young adults suffering from mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorders) are likely to develop insomnia. Often, mental illness and insomnia go hand in hand, as the diagnosis of one might lead to a diagnosis of the other.
· Medication- certain medications, like antidepressants or stimulants, interfere with the sleep cycle.
· Stimulants- Stimulating drinks such as coffee, tea, cola, and other caffeine-containing drinks are common among young adults, but they too disrupt sleep cycles by stopping sleepiness.
Effects of insomnia:
A disrupted sleep cycle impacts performance during waking hours. Instead of imbibing the cognitive properties offered by adequate sleep, young adults adopt maladaptive practices, such as utilizing screens, which further leads to impatience and anxiety.
Some common effects are listed below:
· Sleepiness during the day
· Mood swings
· Poor concentration
· Poor cognitive skills
· Poor memory
· Lack of motivation
· Frequent headaches
· Physical weakness
· Deteriorating quality of work
· Increased risk for health conditions
· Risk of accidents
Prevention of insomnia:
· Follow a regular sleep schedule
· Ensure at least 8 hours of sleep in 24 hours
· Avoid daytime naps
· Ensure healthy physical activity
· Avoid caffeine, especially around bedtime
· Avoid heavy meals late at night
· Limit the use of screens before sleeping
· Engage in a relaxing activity, such as reading, before going to sleep
· Make yourself feel comfortable to fall asleep quickly
Treatment of insomnia:
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine lists the following treatments:
· CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) that includes relaxation training, sleep hygiene training, and stimulus control.
· Sleep aids- Antihistamines, and other such over-the-counter products might improve sleep, but they either increase daytime sleepiness too or have little evidence to support their effectiveness.
· Prescription drugs- Under the supervision of a physician, there are drugs that can be used. A few newer sleeping pills have been found to pose fewer risks to the patient. Unapproved drugs pose a significant level of risk and must be avoided.