Sleep Disorders: Insomnia

By Brianna L., Niles McKinley High School

I have obsessive compulsive disorder, as well as generalized anxiety disorder, and because of me showing clear signs of both at a young age, they’ve always been a part of my life. The signs were always there, but I didn’t receive any form of treatment until I was sixteen. Because I went untreated for so long, my disorders helped me to develop insomnia. I rarely slept at night until I would crash after so many days with so little sleep. I never let it impact my studies, but it took a toll on me.

As if that were not bad enough on its own, When I was eleven years old, already awful at falling asleep, my dad burst through my door screaming at four in the morning. My parents had been fighting again, and this time, things were getting bad. My mom had called the police, my dad swore he did nothing wrong, and I was caught in the middle of it. I cried, and cried as my parents screamed, knowing that not only did I have to be at school in three hours, but that the rest of the night would be spent in tears for myself, and my brother. This wasn’t the only time this happened, but it was certainly the one that did me the most damage.

After that night, I could not sleep in my room for 5 years. I slept on the couch, or when I was forced to sleep in my room, I would cry, have even more trouble sleeping, or panic throughout the night. Later in life I learned that what I was experiencing could be classified as a form of post traumatic stress because of what had happened, but it was only making my long time insomnia worse.

When people think insomnia, they simply think it is not being able to sleep, but it is actually much more complex than that. Insomnia can have many symptoms; not being able to fall asleep, not being able to stay asleep, feeling exhausted after sleeping, among others. Insomnia also comes in two forms; primary insomnia is when you are experiencing insomnia on its own, and secondary insomnia, where your inability to rest is influenced by an outside force. I, of course, experience secondary insomnia because my sleep disorder is directly influenced by other disorders.

Both primary and secondary insomnia can be broken down into two durations. There is acute insomnia, which is short term, and chronic insomnia, which is long term. I quite obviously experience long term insomnia, as I am going on roughly nine years now. Acute insomnia is caused by temporary things, primarily, like a new form of life stress, alcohol use, break ups, and even certain medications, whereas chronic insomnia can be caused by anxiety, depression, stress, and pain or discomfort during the night.

Insomnia is pretty easy to detect, it is easy to know if you are not getting enough sleep, but it is not so easy to treat. Acute insomnia is often found not to need treatment, and can easily be fixed by improving your sleeping habits, but in some cases, prescription sleeping pills are provided for short term use to regulate a person’s sleep cycle. Good sleep habits, like avoiding alcohol or caffeine late in the day, and going to bed and waking up on a schedule, can create a better night’s sleep. Additionally, following a schedule at bedtime can help immensely.

Chronic insomnia, though, is slightly harder to treat. This is primarily because to treat chronic insomnia, you must also treat it’s causes, such as anxiety or depression. Sometimes, physicians will use relaxation techniques, sleep restriction therapy, and reconditioning to aid in someone’s sleep patterns, but generally, they turn to medication to get someone to sleep.

That is what they did for me. It was a long process, and I still don’t sleep normally, but, it is a step in the right direction. Sleep deprivation is a form of torture, and when you cannot sleep, you’re only torturing your own body. I personally am thankful for the advancements the medical field has made when it comes to sleep disorders, especially insomnia. No one deserves to live a life that doesn’t include sleep, and relaxation.

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