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SALEM COMMUNITY HOSPITAL...Can’t sleep? Maybe insomnia is to blame

March 6, 2011
Salem News

National Sleep Awareness Week begins Monday and ends with the clock changing back to Daylight Saving Time on March 13, when Americans lose one hour of sleep. However, sleep loss occurs more frequently than once a year, and is a common complaint for millions of American adults.

"Insomnia, which is the Latin word for 'no sleep,' is the inability to fall asleep or remain asleep," explained Malinda Miller, Sleep Lab Supervisor at Salem Community Hospital's Sleep Center. "It also refers to the condition of waking up not feeling refreshed."

According to the National Sleep Foundation, insomnia is the most common sleep complaint among Americans, and over half of U.S. adults experience one or more symptoms of insomnia at least a few nights a week.

"Insomnia can last from one night to months or even years," Malinda added. "When insomnia persists for longer than a month, it is considered chronic. However, intermittent insomnia occurs more frequently and happens when a person has difficulty sleeping for a few nights, then gets a few nights of adequate sleep, then the cycle repeats.

"Half of the people who experience insomnia blame it on stress or worry. Sometimes insomnia may be related to a disturbing occurrence like loss of a loved one, loss of a job, or problems in a relationship. Anticipation of events like weddings, vacations, or holidays can also disturb sleep and make it difficult to fall asleep or remain asleep. Insomnia can also occur with jet lag, shift work or other major schedule changes.

"Women suffer a more frequent loss of sleep than men, which is tied to menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause. The rates of insomnia also increase as a person ages, but most often these sleep disturbances are related to an underlying medical condition, which should be evaluated by a physician. Depression, digestive disorders, pain, or sinusitis are all examples of medical conditions that can affect sleep, along with sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome."

Fact Box

Symptoms of

Insomnia Include:

Difficulty falling asleep or returning to sleep

Waking up frequently during the night

Waking up too early in the morning

Unrefreshing sleep

Daytime sleepiness

Difficulty concentrating


Healthy Sleep Habits

At night:

Use the bed and bedroom for sleep and sex only

Establish a regular bedtime routine and a regular sleep-wake schedule

Do not eat or drink too much close to bedtime

Create a sleep-promoting environment that is dark, cool and comfortable

Avoid disturbing noises consider a bedside fan or white-noise to block sounds

During the day:

Consume less or no caffeine, particularly late in the day

Avoid alcohol and nicotine, especially close to bedtime

Exercise, but not within three hours before bedtime

Avoid naps, particularly in the late afternoon or evening

Keep a sleep diary to identify your sleep habits and patterns that you can share with your doctor.

In addition, some medications can also lead to insomnia, including those taken for: colds and allergies, high blood pressure or heart disease, thyroid disease, birth control, asthma, pain medications or depression (especially SSRI antidepressants).


Left untreated, insomnia is linked to higher rates of illness or disease, and can result in fatigue, depression, and concentration problems.

"There is a significant amount of research indicating that people with insomnia have poorer overall health, more work absenteeism, and a higher incidence of depression," Malinda added. "If you experience difficulty sleeping for a few weeks or more, or if you experience discomfort as a result of the insomnia, talk to your doctor about your symptoms."

Because of the close connection between behavior and insomnia, one of the first approaches for treatment is often tied to the development of healthy sleep habits.

"Relaxation techniques, such as yoga or meditation, may help the body prepare for sleep," she advised, "as can exercise as a stress reducer, if it is done early in the day."

For those who need additional help, medications have become a common treatment for sleep problems. "Sleep medications for the treatment of insomnia are called hypnotics," she concluded.

"They work by targeting areas in the brain believed to be involved in sleep promotion. Talk to your doctor about the possible side effects of taking hypnotics, such as morning sedation, memory problems, headaches, and sleepwalking.

"Lastly, a sleep study may be needed to detect, evaluate and help determine the treatment for insomnia or another sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea, narcolepsy, night starts, night terrors, restless leg syndrome or difficulties changing from work shifts."

Malinda Miller, RRT, RPSGT, is the sleep lab supervisor at the Salem Sleep Center, located in the Salem Medical Center, 2094 East State Street. For more information about the Salem Sleep Center, call 330-332-7796.



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