Fitness

3 ways to know if you have insomnia


When you have insomnia, you’re never really asleep. And you’re never really awake. If this sounds like you, our sleep expert Olivia Arezzolo has some tips for you. 

Sleep: it’s free. And we all want more of it, so why is it so hard to get? Specifically – that consistent, restorative, uninterrupted, eight-hours-a-night kinda sleep. Which is why we’ve enlisted Sydney-based sleep expert Olivia Arezzolo to solve our myriad of sleep concerns with our new editorial series Sleep Well Wednesdays. Check back each week and you’ll be off to the land of nod before you know it.

Another night of restless, un-refreshing sleep? Struggling to string a sentence together in that meeting… again? Feeling flat and mentally drained once more?

If you said yes to any of the above, there’s every chance you may have insomnia and need to seek help. To help you understand further, these are the criteria for insomnia so you can know if what you’re experiencing is normal or not.

Insomnia criteria 1: time

Essentially, if you’ve struggled with sleep three-plus times a week for longer than a month, you would be diagnosed with insomnia as noted in the DSM-IV, the standard assessment tool used to diagnose sleep disorders.

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Insomnia criteria 2: symptoms

Specifically, the DSM-IV states those with insomnia have problems initiating sleep, and/or maintaining sleep; alongside self-reports of non-restorative sleep.

They also note is likely to cause significant impairment in your daily functioning: you may be unproductive, mentally flat and fatigued, or be unable to take part in your normal social experiences – simply because you’re too tired.

Insomnia criteria 3: sleep itself is the issue

Though there is extensive co-morbidity between sleep and other conditions, e.g. evidence indicates 97 percent of those with depression experience sleep disturbances; while research also shows >70 percent of those with anxiety report difficulties in sleep to meet the diagnostic criteria for insomnia, sleep is an issue even if the absence of other conditions.

Similarly, sleeplessness isn’t due to inadequate opportunity, nor could it be attributed to the influence of alcohol, drugs, or other substances.

If you meet the criteria:

I strongly, strongly advise you seek help – there are experts like myself who can sort your sleep out in a matter of weeks and see you functioning at your best again – and in fact; that’s what we love to do.

On the other hand, by allowing insomnia to persist, you suffer during the day, too. You’re more likely to be anxious and depressed and you’re likely to have concentration difficulties.

Specifically, clinical papers highlight those with insomnia are 18 times more likely to have an anxiety disorder and 10 times more likely to have depression. Further data indicates those sleeping less than six hours of a night–typical in insomnia–are 1.5 times more likely to experience ADHD.

Note the words: ‘allowing insomnia to persist’. Yes. As much as I’d love you to get the treatment you need and deserve, ultimately the decision is yours. Perhaps reflect on times past; the days you woke up with energy, were mentally focused all day and felt that natural enthusiasm for life.

Recalling these times is key as it reminds you things haven’t necessarily always been this bad, and because of this, they can improve again if you have the right support.

And if you don’t meet the criteria?

So it’s only been a few weeks of poor sleep, or maybe it doesn’t limit you that much. Is it normal or should you also seek help before it gets worse?

Meet the criteria or not, I fundamentally believe if you want to sleep better, you owe it to yourself and those around you to do so.

Remember, this isn’t about your sleeping life; this is about your waking life. Living it fully, completely, and without constant fatigue.

Olivia Arezzolo is a sleep expert who holds a bachelor of social science (psychology); certificate of sleep psychology and a diploma of health science (nutritional medicine); and certificate of fitness III + IV. Olivia is passionate about delivering straightforward, science-based strategies to improve sleep.