This all began about two and a half months ago when I went through an extremely stressful period. I started having trouble sleeping. The stressful period has long passed, but my sleep still is not back to normal. For the past six to eight weeks, I can easily fall asleep but wake up every two hours or so. I wake up and get back to sleep within five to ten minutes at the most. But it is not very pleasant. I wake up in the morning not feeling refreshed since I have woken up four times throughout the night. I have no trouble getting back to sleep. So, I do not believe this is stress or anxiety-related. Could you please help?
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This is known as an inability to maintain sleep wherein falling asleep and waking is unaltered, but multiple sleep breaks occur. You describe it as being recent in onset, persistent, started after a very stressful period, and most importantly, you are not feeling fresh in the morning. Anxiety typically has brought about these sleep difficulties and worries during this period. There are a couple of differential diagnoses that come to my mind.
1. Depression: One possibility is that the stressful experience precipitated an episode of depression. Sleep maintenance difficulty is seen in depression. Besides, depression could also contribute to not feeling fresh in the morning. These are just two symptoms, and much more is needed to diagnose depression like loss of interest, thinking difficulties, guilt, weight changes, feeling of sorrow, etc. You can check by yourself with this online depression screening test to confirm the diagnosis. It is also possible that you were depressed during the stressful period. The depression has resolved, but the sleep issue is a residual symptom that is yet to resolve.
2. Sleep apnea: This is less likely. This will also have symptoms of snoring and remaining drowsy all day. The feeling of inadequate sleep stays 24 hours in such a case. There are phone applications that monitor your sleep, including snoring and body movements, to help in diagnosis. In either case, I would advise against using hypnotic medicines as they worsen both depression and sleep apnea.
I suggest taking some natural supplements like melatonin or magnesium glycinate for symptom relief. Treating the underlying disorder will be the best treatment.
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