Difference Between Insomnia and Sleep Apnea

Main Difference – Insomnia vs Sleep Apnea

It is essential for every living organism to have a rest and a proper sleep after engaging in hundreds of daily activities. A healthy sleep refers to the duration and quality of sleep which optimizes an individual to maintain the maximum alertness while being awake. Generally, an adult needs around 8 hours of sleep at night, even though the individual requirement may vary based on several factors.  Children and adolescents usually need more than 8 hours of sleep, but after the age of 4, the necessity will gradually lessen and reach approximately 8 hours.

There are various types of sleeping disorders, and Insomnia and Sleep apnea are known to be two of the commonest ones. The main difference between insomnia and sleep apnea is that insomnia is a condition where an individual has trouble falling and maintaining sleep whereas sleep apnea is difficulty in breathing that takes place during sleep.

This article explains,

1. What is Insomnia – Features, Signs and Symptoms, Causes, Treatment Methods 

2. What is Sleep Apnea – Features, Signs and Symptoms, Causes, Treatment methods

3. What is the Difference Between Insomnia and Sleep Apnea 

Difference Between Insomnia and Sleep Apnea - Insomnia vs Sleep Apnea Comparison Summary

What is Insomnia

Being the commonest type of sleep disorder, Insomnia is defined as the difficulty in  falling asleep or difficulty in maintaining sleep every night or most nights, despite the adequate opportunity to sleep. Other variable symptoms and signs include waking up too early in the morning, inability to fall back to sleep and going through episodes of uncomfortable or disturbed sleep. Consequences of Insomnia may vary from one person to another and include irritability, tiredness and poor ability of concentration.

Insomnia can occur without any clear etiology, due to stress, anxiety, nicotine, caffeine, excessive alcohol, drug abuse, over-the-counter drugs, menopause, hormonal disturbances in women, chronic pain, etc. but can also be a symptom associated with several mental and physical health conditions like depression, hypothyroidism, high blood pressure, heart diseases, asthma, arthritis and nasal allergies or sinusitis. Furthermore, insomnia can also be linked up with other sleeping disorders like sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome.

There are several types of Insomnia such as general insomnia which usually last one night up to several weeks, chronic insomnia which lasts for months to years, transient insomnia which lasts for a short time and intermittent insomnia which occasionally recurs with comparatively shorter episodes of sleeplessness.

The modalities of treatment mainly depend on the root cause of disturbed sleep. However, it is important to make lifestyle modifications such as avoidance of distractions during sleep (noise, television, music), avoidance or shortening of the duration of naps during day time, consuming a light diet at night, and avoiding caffeine and nicotine can help to treat the underlying cause of insomnia. In addition, altering drugs which might be causing insomnia with the help of medical advice and proper training of a sleep pattern since childhood can also help to prevent this condition.Main Difference - Insomnia vs Sleep Apnea

What is Sleep Apnea

Sleep Apnea is a serious and potentially life-threatening condition which is characterized by repetitive and brief disruptions of airflow while being asleep. Being a condition which owns a male predominance, sleep apnea is common in people over 40 years of age and often go undiagnosed in women.

Advanced age, increased alcohol consumption, sedatives, obesity, congestive cardiac failure, stroke and head injury are known to be the commonest predisposing factors for sleep apnea.

There are several types of sleep apnea, and obstructive sleep apnea is known to be the commonest one of it. This takes place when the airway is blocked due to reasons such as excessive tissue content in obese people, narrowed airways due to asthma and anatomical anomalies including enlarged tonsils or large uvula .

As far as the pathophysiology of Sleep apnea is considered, disrupted air entry into the lungs through nose and mouth makes it difficult for an individual to breathe which results in an increased effort on respiration leading to a creation of a suction force in the upper airway tract. This whole scenario will result in further collapsing of airways with a sound of involuntary snoring associated with a break in the airflow. Also, due to the low concentration of oxygen and increased concentration of carbon dioxide in the blood, the signals will be sent to the brain to stimulate the relaxation of muscles in the airway from time to time. This process will result in episodes of normal sleep and sudden awakening associated with a loud gasp.

Eliminating the root cause and treating any underlying health condition play a major role in the management of sleep apnea. In addition, lifestyle modifications such as regular exercises, weight reduction, healthy diet, quitting smoking and alcohol will also help to improve the condition.

Difference Between Insomnia and Sleep Apnea

Difference Between Insomnia and Sleep Apnea

Features

Insomnia: Insomnia is characterized by difficulty in falling asleep or maintaining sleep every night or most nights, despite the adequate opportunity to sleep.

Sleep Apnea: Sleep Apnea is characterized by repetitive and brief disruptions of airflow while being asleep.

Signs and Symptoms

Insomnia: Waking up too early in the morning, inability to fall back to sleep and going through episodes of uncomfortable or disturbed sleep.

Sleep Apnea: Chronic Snoring, Choking, Gasping for breadth.

Cause

Insomnia: Insomnia can be caused by stress, anxiety, nicotine, caffeine, excessive alcohol, drug abuse, over-the-counter drugs, menopause, hormonal disturbances in women, chronic pain, etc.

Sleep Apnea: Sleep Apnea is caused by a blockage in the airway due to reasons such as excessive tissue content in obese people, narrowed airways due to asthma and anatomical anomalies including enlarged tonsils or a large uvula.

Treatment Methods

Insomnia: Avoidance of distractions during sleep (noise, television, music), avoidance or shortening of the duration of naps during the day time, consuming a light diet at night, and avoiding caffeine and nicotine can help to improve insomnia.

Sleep Apnea: Lifestyle modifications such as regular exercises, weight reduction, healthy diet, quitting smoking and alcohol can improve this condition.

Associated Conditions

Insomnia: Insomnia can occur due to various mental health problems such as depression or mood swings like anxiety.

Sleep Apnea: Sleep apnea will only take place due to an underlying physical condition, but not as a result of anxiety or depression.

Image Courtesy:

“Complications of insomnia” – “Medical gallery of Mikael Häggström 2014″. Wikiversity Journal of Medicine 1 (2). DOI:10.15347/wjm/2014.008. ISSN 20018762. – (Public Domain) via

“Airway obstruction” By Drcamachoent – Own work via  

About the Author: Embogama

Embogama is a passionate freelance writer for several years. Her areas of interest include general medicine, clinical medicine, health and fitness, Ayurveda medicine, psychology, counseling and piano music


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