Home Health & Hospice

Understand the different types of insomnia and treat patients effectively

Homecare Insider, December 9, 2013

Sleep, or the lack of it, affects not only a patient’s mood and energy level but also the individual’s immune system, metabolism, and cardiovascular function. Typically, the sleep cycle of older people is more fragmented than the sleep cycle of younger people. Although sleep patterns typically change with age, problems falling or staying asleep, excessive sleeping, and other abnormal sleep-related behaviors in home health patients could be signs of a sleep disorder.

As providers focus on addressing a patient’s primary condition, it may be easy to overlook sleep-related issues. One of the most common sleep disorders providers should be aware of is insomnia. Identifying and addressing this condition early on can significantly improve the health and well being of homecare patients.

Insomnia is characterized by difficulty falling and staying asleep, waking up early, and feeling tired upon awakening. There are two types of insomnia:

  • Primary insomnia is when sleeping problems are not directly associated with another factor or condition.
  • Secondary insomnia, which is more common among homecare patients, is when sleeping problems occur due to another condition, such as depression, Parkinson’s disease, or pain.

Since insomnia is often a sign of an underlying condition, all sleep disturbances and patient complaints of difficulty sleeping must be evaluated before being treated.

Symptoms of insomnia can include:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Frequently waking in the night
  • Waking up too early in the morning
  • Daytime fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Memory and concentration problems
  • Frequent napping

Primary insomnia can be treated with the use of sleeping medications, behavioral techniques, and good sleeping habits. However, if it is determined that the patient suffers from secondary insomnia, the underlying condition should be treated first, because the patient’s sleeping problems will most likely end when that condition is resolved.