The amount of sleep required by an individual varies from person to person. On an average, 7½ hours of sleep is sufficient for an adult; however, many people do very well with far less than that while others need 9-10 hours of sleep. Almost everybody experiences sleeplessness at some point in life.
The occasional night of tossing and turning, and the inability to get that shuteye despite trying everything is a symptom of lack of sleep. It is usually caused by stress, indigestion, or consumption of excessive alcohol or caffeine.
When sleeplessness continues to be persistent, and the normal patterns of sleep keeps being elusive, night after night (e.g. three to four nights each week) which lasts for a month and even more, then that condition is regarded as chronic insomnia.
The sleeplessness experienced by people with insomnia has no ostensible reason. However, the sleep deprivation is so acute that it leads to a corresponding decrease in the energy levels of the body accompanied by mood swings, making the affected person irritable. This may have an adverse impact on the day-to-day life of a person.
Mood swings and low-energy levels are some of the ill effects of this condition. According to research, sleep reinforces the immune system. Hence, chronic sleeplessness may also have an adverse effect on the health by reducing the immunity to disease causing bacteria and viruses.
Sleeplessness caused due to insomnia often results in the lack of mental alertness and concentration accompanied by chronic fatigue, which is one of the leading causes of accidents.
This condition may also lead to poor performance at the workplace. This may lead to financial stress, which may worsen this condition further.
Chronic insomnia may be caused by a wide variety of conditions like: chronic stress, emotional problems such as paranoia, anxiety, or depression, and chronic illnesses such as respiratory problems, allergies, asthma, and arthritis.
Most of the people with psychological disorders are afflicted by insomnia, because such people have abnormally low levels of melatonin (a hormone that induces sleep) and high levels of stress hormones. Some of the most common psychological disorders that lead to lack of sleep are manic depression, schizophrenia, chronic anxiety, and chronic depression.
In some cases, no medical condition is found to cause chronic insomnia. In such cases, the condition is referred to as primary insomnia. For instance, in women, primary insomnia may be caused by the fluctuation of progesterone, a female hormone produced in the ovaries.
The primary type of chronic insomnia may also be caused by lifestyle and behavioral elements such as the overuse of stimulating substances like caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, drug abuse, irregular habits, disruptive sleep and wake cycles caused by continuous late-night socializing or irregular working schedule, etc.
If the insomnia is not responsive to behavioral therapy or other natural methods of treatment, then primary means of treatment is the use of antidepressant, hypnotic, and sedative drugs. However, these drugs are usually addictive, and with time they lose their effectiveness. Hence, they are usually used as a short-term means of treating chronic insomnia.
Subsequently, it is recommended to make positive behavioral and lifestyle changes, and also to adopt techniques of relaxation like meditation that helps induce sleep. If the chronic insomnia is caused by a medical condition, then that disease will have to be treated to reduce the sleep deprivation caused by it.
Disclaimer: This is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.