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Melatonin therapy for the treatment of insomnia.

A report for World of Magnets by Debbie Shimadry RN Dip, Dip MT

What is insomnia?

Insomnia can be described simply as being disordered sleep. However it is usually characterised by a difficulty getting to sleep with or without repeated waking through the night. It usually results in a feeling of permanent tiredness.

Most of us will experience insomnia at some point in our life, but it lasts only a few nights or at most a few weeks and then resolves itself with out treatment. Most common forms of temporary insomnia are jetlag after changing time zone when going or returning from holiday, environmental disturbances i.e noise outside the house from neighbours, car alarms, traffic etc, temporary illness such as a cold , flu or other illness. Some people suffer from chronic insomnia ( i.e. having trouble getting to sleep or staying a sleep nearly all or every night for a period of over 3 weeks.)

Who suffers from insomnia?

Insomnia is the most common complaint about sleep. 2 out of 3 adults in the U.K suffer with chronic insomnia, that’s approx 32 million people. Many studies have shown that women complain of poor sleep twice as often as men and that most elderly people are awake for up to one fifth of the night. Studies have also shown that people with anxious personalities, those suffering from depression and stress are major sufferers of insomnia.

What’s the difference between transient and chronic insomnia?


Duration – Usually less than 3 - 4 weeks.
Causes-Life stress, brief illness, travel, sleep deprivation, hormonal changes, pain.
Effects– Minimal, rapid recovery once the causes have been resolved.


Duration– Longer than 3-4 weeks, often permanent.
Causes– Old age, long term illness, chronic pain, depression, chronic stress
Effects– Poor concentration/ performance, muscle aches, reduced immune function, hormonal imbalances, a state of permanent tiredness.

What patterns of insomnia are there?

The following is a list of the major patterns of insomnia. These can be both transient or chronic problems:

1. Sleep onset insomnia
i.e. taking longer than 30 minutes to get to sleep. Caused by sudden anxiety, grief, environmental noise, drugs, depression, stress.

2. Sleep maintenance insomnia
i.e. frequent nocturnal awakening which can be at regular or random intervals. Foe example at 90 minute intervals after periods of distressing REM sleep ( dream sleep). Random awakenings can occur in sleep apnoecis ( sleep apnoecis stop breathing for short periods of time which require stimulus from the brain to resume breathing.

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