To treat insomnia yourself: Clasp your hands together and gently open your palms with your fingers interlocked to create a cup shape with your hands. Use your thumbs to apply a deep and firm pressure toward your skull, using circular or up-and-down movements to massage this area for four to five seconds.
Insomnia, or sleeplessness, is a sleep disorder in which there is an inability to fall asleep or to stay asleep as long as desired. While the term is sometimes used to describe a disorder demonstrated by polysomnographic evidence of disturbed sleep, this sleep disorder is often practically defined as a positive response to either of two questions: “Do you experience difficulty sleeping?” or “Do you have difficulty falling or staying asleep?”
Insomnia is most often thought of as both a medical sign and a symptom that can accompany several sleep, medical, and psychiatric disorders characterized by a persistent difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep or sleep of poor quality. Insomnia is typically followed by functional impairment while awake. Insomnia can occur at any age, but it is particularly common in the elderly. Insomnia can be short term (up to three weeks) or long term (above 3–4 weeks), which can lead to memory problems, depression, irritability, and an increased risk of heart disease and automobile-related accidents.
Those who are having trouble sleeping sometimes turn to sleep pills, which can help when used occasionally but may lead to substance dependence or addiction if used regularly for an extended period.
Insomnia can be grouped into primary and secondary, or comorbid, insomnia. Primary insomnia is a sleep disorder not attributable to a medical, psychiatric, or environmental cause. It is described as a complaint of prolonged sleep onset latency, disturbance of sleep maintenance, or the experience of non-refreshing sleep. A complete diagnosis will differentiate between free-standing primary insomnia, insomnia as secondary to another condition, and primary insomnia co-morbid with one or more conditions.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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Insomnia is a sleep disorder that is characterized by difficulty falling and/or staying asleep. People with insomnia have one or more of the following symptoms:
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Waking up often during the night and having trouble going back to sleep
- Waking up too early in the morning
- Feeling tired upon waking
Types of Insomnia
There are two types of insomnia: primary insomnia and secondary insomnia.
- Primary insomnia: Primary insomnia means that a person is having sleep problems that are not directly associated with any other health condition or problem.
- Secondary insomnia: Secondary insomnia means that a person is having sleep problems because of something else, such as a health condition (like asthma, depression, arthritis, cancer, or heartburn); pain; medication they are taking; or a substance they are using (like alcohol).
Acute vs. Chronic Insomnia
Insomnia also varies in how long it lasts and how often it occurs. It can be short-term (acute insomnia) or can last a long time (chronic insomnia). It can also come and go, with periods of time when a person has no sleep problems. Acute insomnia can last from one night to a few weeks. Insomnia is called chronic when a person has insomnia at least three nights a week for a month or longer.
Causes of Insomnia
Causes of acute insomnia can include:
- Significant life stress (job loss or change, death of a loved one, divorce, moving)
- Emotional or physical discomfort
- Environmental factors like noise, light, or extreme temperatures (hot or cold) that interfere with sleep
- Some medications (for example those used to treat colds, allergies, depression, high blood pressure, and asthma) may interfere with sleep
- Interferences in normal sleep schedule (jet lag or switching from a day to the night shift, for example)
Causes of chronic insomnia include:
- Depression and/or anxiety
- Chronic stress
- Pain or discomfort at night
Symptoms of Insomnia
Symptoms of insomnia can include:
- Sleepiness during the day
- General tiredness
- Problems with concentration or memory
If you think you have insomnia, talk to your health care provider. An evaluation may include a physical exam, a medical history, and a sleep history. You may be asked to keep a sleep diary for a week or two, keeping track of your sleep patterns and how you feel during the day. Your health care provider may want to interview your bed partner about the quantity and quality of your sleep. In some cases, you may be referred to a sleep center for special tests.
Treatment for Insomnia
Acute insomnia may not require treatment. Mild insomnia often can be prevented or cured by practicing good sleep habits (see below). If your insomnia makes it hard for you to function during the day because you are sleepy and tired, your health care provider may prescribe sleeping pills for a limited time. Rapid onset, short-acting drugs can help you avoid effects such as drowsiness the following day. Avoid using over-the-counter sleeping pills for insomnia, because they may have undesired side effects and tend to lose their effectiveness over time.
Treatment for chronic insomnia includes first treating any underlying conditions or health problems that are causing insomnia. If insomnia continues, your health care provider may suggest behavioral therapy. Behavioral approaches help you to change behaviors that may worsen insomnia and to learn new behaviors to promote sleep. Techniques such as relaxation exercises, sleep restriction therapy, and reconditioning may be useful.
Adequate sleep is necessary for healthy functioning, and quality sleep is vital to health and wellness. But an estimated 50 to 70 million Americans experience sleep issues that affect their health,1 often leading to low work performance, slowed reaction time, obesity, higher risk of long-term disease, and substance abuse.2
Chronic insomnia causes extreme fatigue and problems with concentration, and can adversely affect a person’s mood and well-being. For healthcare professionals, helping patients overcome insomnia is critical for fostering overall health and wellness.3 According to Ralph Pascual, MD, medical director of the Swedish Sleep Medicine Institute (SSMI) in Seattle, both the quantity and quality of an individual’s sleep directly affect their health.4
Nutrition and exercise are often recommended as the foundation of good health, but research shows that quality sleep should also be part of any holistic treatment. Those who sleep less than 8 hours per night are experiencing “sleep debt,” which cannot be reversed by sleeping more on the weekend.4
According to the Mayo Clinic, studies have found massage to be beneficial for insomnia-related stress, as well as2:
- Digestive disorders
- Myofascial pain syndrome
- Paresthesias and nerve pain
- Soft tissue strains or injuries
- Sports injuries
- Temporomandibular joint pain
Benefits of Massage Therapy
The National Institutes of Health has advised that massage therapy can reduce fatigue and improve sleep5 and, based on research gathered by the American Massage Therapy Association, massage has been shown to improve sleep in infants, children, adults, and the elderly alike, as well as individuals with psychiatric disorders, fibromyalgia, cancer, heart disease, lower back pain, cerebral palsy, and breast disease.1
Anne Williams, director of education, Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals, and author of Spa Bodywork and Teaching Massage, says, “Massage helps people spend more time in deep sleep, the restorative stage in which the body barely moves, which reduces the neurotransmitter associated with pain.”
There are many different types of massage, including this common types2:
- Swedish massage—This is a gentle form of massage that uses long strokes, kneading, deep circular movements, vibration, and tapping to help relax and energize.
- Deep massage—This massage technique uses slower, more forceful strokes to target the deeper layers of muscle and connective tissue, commonly to help with muscle damage from injuries.
- Sports massage—This is similar to Swedish massage, but it’s geared toward people involved in sports activities to help prevent or treat injuries.
- Trigger point massage—This massage focuses on areas of tight muscle fibers that can form in muscles after injuries or overuse.
The chemistry of sleep is relevant in relation to massage because it directly influences the body’s production of serotonin, which is essential for the production of melatonin. A study on back pain, published in the International Journal of Neuroscience, demonstrated that in addition to a decrease in long-term pain, subjects receiving massage experienced improved sleep and an increase in serotonin levels.3 Results were based on twice-weekly, 30-minute massages for 5 weeks, using these techniques:
- Kneading and pressing the back muscles
- Massaging both sides of the spine and hips
- Gliding rubs to the legs
- Kneading and pressing the thighs
In the supine position, participants received:
- Gliding strokes to the neck and abdomen
- Kneading of the rectus and oblique muscles that help bend the trunk of the body forward
- Rubbing of the legs
- Kneading of the anterior thighs
- Flexing of the thighs and knees
- Gentle pulling on both legs
In addition to other assessments, the asleep scale to measure the quality of sleep and urine samples to measure levels of serotonin were used in the study.
Massage is a smart, healthy, and drug-free option that has helped many people overcome insomnia. Because melatonin influences the sleep stage of an individual’s circadian rhythm, a natural way of boosting serotonin is a positive sleep-inducing option. This connection calls for further research showing the direct effects massage therapy has on serotonin and sleep. In the meantime, the existing evidence is enough to recommend regular massages for sleepless patients.3
A growing number of healthcare professionals recognize the benefits of taking a multidisciplinary approach to patients in order to better identify the source of illness4—rather than simply treating the symptoms. At the same time, sleeping pills and pain killers should take a back seat to complementary and alternative forms of medicine, including massage therapy, for treating the whole person and improving outcomes.
By K. Kibler
*Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider.
Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition.
The information provided is for educational purposes only and is not intended as diagnosis, treatment, or prescription of any kind. The decision to use, or not to use, any information is the sole responsibility of the reader. These statements are not expressions of legal opinion relative to the scope of practice, medical diagnosis, or medical advice, nor do they represent an endorsement of any product, company, or specific massage therapy technique, modality, or approach. All trademarks, registered trademarks, brand names, registered brand names, logos, and company logos referenced in this post are the property of their owners.