Insomnia is not a disease; it’s a symptom

Insomnia is not some sort of a disease.  Rather, insomnia is a symptom of something deeper that represents the true roots of sleeping problems.  To better understand and deal with the challenge of sleeping problems, it’s helpful to explore what insomnia really is.

Sleep scientists generally recognize two major types of insomnia.

            Primary insomnia refers to sleep problems not caused by a physiological or psychiatric disorder.  In the Sleep Training System, we may refer to this as common insomnia, learned insomnia, conditioned insomnia, or evolved insomnia.  These broad terms in the STS all describe the same basic condition:  sleeping problems with no apparent medical or psychiatric basis.

Millions of people have a form of primary insomnia that is often characterized by excessive worry about sleep.  Known as psychophysiological insomnia, this condition is relatively common.  Although reliable survey data is limited, the Institute of Medicine estimates some 30 million Americans, or roughly one out of ten persons, may have some form of psychophysiological insomnia.

It’s very important to understand that primary insomnia is often associated with some underlying issue – psychological, behavioral, or physical – that does not have a true medical or psychiatric basis.  To effectively address primary insomnia therefore requires getting to the root causes that are not medical or psychiatric  – something that sleeping pills can’t do.  Identifying, understanding, and constructively addressing these root causes are focal points of the STS.

            Comorbid insomnia, sometimes known as secondary insomnia, refers to sleeping problems associated with medical or psychiatric issues.

Restless leg syndrome, arthritis, back pain, and obstructive sleep apnea are examples of medical issues that can be connected to sleep problems.

Psychiatric issues associated with insomnia include depression, bipolar disorder, and substance abuse disorders.

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, surveys suggest that approximately 3% of the general population has insomnia due to medical or psychiatric conditions.  This percentage represents a relatively small minority of all people with sleeping problems.  However, determining whether or not there are any accompanying issues to be addressed is one of the most important reasons to see your doctor before starting a comprehensive sleep improvement program like the STS.

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