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Insomnia is the inability to obtain an adequate amount or quality of sleep. The difficulty can be in falling asleep, remaining asleep, or both. People with insomnia do not feel refreshed when they wake up. Insomnia is a common symptom affecting millions of people
Sleep is essential for mental and physical restoration. It is a cycle with two separate states: rapid eye movement (REM), the stage in which most dreaming occurs; and non-REM (NREM). Four stages of sleep take place during NREM: stage I, when the person passes from relaxed wakefulness; stage II, an early stage of light sleep; stages III and IV, which are increasing degrees of deep sleep. Most stage IV sleep (also called delta sleep), occurs in the first several hours of sleep. A period of REM sleep normally follows a period of NREM sleep.
Sleeplessness or insomnia is a symptom and may be caused by "stress, anxiety, depression, disease, pain, medications, sleep disorders, poor sleep habits .. [and] sleep environment and health habits," according to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF).
Women are 1.3 times more likely to report insomnia than men, according to the NSF. Women may experience sleeplessness before and at the onset of the menstrual cycle, during pregnancy, and menopause. The foundation reported that people over the age of 65 are "more likely to complain of insomnia than younger people." Furthermore, people who are divorced, widowed, or separated are more likely to have the problem than those who are married. In addition, insomnia is more frequently reported by those with lower socioeconomic status.
Insomnia is classified both by its nightly symptoms and its duration. Sleep-onset insomnia refers to difficulty falling asleep. Maintenance insomnia refers to waking frequently during the night or waking early. Insomnia is also classified in relation to the number of sleepless nights. Short-term or transient insomnia is a common occurrence and usually lasts only a few days. Long-term or chronic insomnia lasts more than three weeks and increases the risk for injuries in the home, at the workplace, and while driving because of daytime sleepiness and decreased concentration. Chronic insomnia can also lead to mood disorders like depression.
Insomnia comes with a high price tag for the nation. NSF in 1999 reported that an estimated $14 billion was spent in one year on such direct costs as insomnia treatment, healthcare services, and hospital and nursing home care. Annual indirect costs like work loss, property damage from accidents, and transportation to and from health care providers were estimated at close to $28 billion. Furthermore, insomnia accounted for $18 billion in lost productivity, according to a 1997 National Sleep Foundation survey.
Author Info: Liz Swain, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit, Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine, 2005
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