You’ve likely had nights when you couldn’t fall asleep, no matter how desperately
you can’t sleep, the ticking of the clock only reminds you of your exhaustion and
endless hours until morning. And perhaps you finally drop off around dawn, only to
jarred awake by the alarm an hour later.
Insomnia means having trouble sleeping at night, staying asleep, or both. It’s one
the most common sleep disorders. Episodes of insomnia that last a few days at a time
called short-term (acute) insomnia. Ongoing (chronic) insomnia is often diagnosed
you have ongoing problems with sleep. There are many different definitions for chronic
insomnia. A commonly accepted one is insomnia that occurs more than 3 nights a week
at least 3 months or that lasts for a month or longer.
Insomnia affects people in different ways. If you suffer from it, you may not be able
to go to sleep or you may not be able to stay asleep. You might constantly wake up
earlier than you would like, perhaps in the wee hours of the morning, and find yourself
unable to go back to sleep.
Women are more likely to have insomnia than men. It’s also more common among:
- Shift workers, who don’t have consistent sleep schedules
- People with low incomes
- People who have a history of depression
- People who don’t get much physical activity
Insomnia has many possible causes. The reasons you’re lying awake when you don’t want
to be are individual. They can include any or all of these:
- Medicines that interfere with sleep
choices, such as caffeine late in the day, that interfere with sleep
- Stressful thoughts
upheavals in your life, such as a divorce or death of a loved one
changes, such as those accompanying menopause
habits that don’t lead to restful sleep
conditions, such as acid reflux, thyroid problems, stroke, or asthma
- Substances like alcohol and nicotine
especially between time zones
These are common symptoms of insomnia:
- Frustration and preoccupation with your lack of sleep
aches and pains, such as headaches and stomachaches
- Impaired performance at work
drowsiness or low energy
- Depression and mood swings
may need to see a sleep medicine specialist to find out what’s causing your insomnia.
will be helpful to bring a record of your sleep patterns.
process of making a diagnosis may include:
Your healthcare provider will consider any health conditions,
medicines you’re taking, and stressful life changes that could be causing
Be prepared to describe your insomnia with details, such as how long
it’s been going on, what you think could be contributing to it, and what your sleep
is like, such as whether you can barely get to sleep at all or if you wake up too
The provider will look for any physical reasons that could be causing
You may need to sleep overnight in a sleep lab where researchers
monitor your sleep.
have many options for treatment:
- Medicines to help you get to sleep and stay asleep
in existing medicine if that’s what’s causing the problem
- Counseling to help relieve stress and other issues bothering you
in lifestyle choices that may interfere with sleep
- Better-sleep bedtime habits, called sleep hygiene
exact course will depend on what your provider identifies as the possible causes of
Insomnia can have serious complications. Poor sleep quality is linked to:
- Increased risk for heart disease
- Increased risk for stroke
- Increased risk for diabetes
- Excessive weight gain or obesity
- Increased risk for injury to yourself or others, such as a car accident caused by
driving while drowsy
Insomnia, the term for having trouble sleeping at night, is one of the most common
sleep complaints. About 1 in 3 adults has bouts of insomnia that last a few days at
time. Women are more likely to have insomnia than men.
- Insomnia has many possible causes. You may need to see a sleep medicine specialist
to find out what’s causing your insomnia.
symptoms of insomnia include impaired work performance, daytime drowsiness or low
energy, difficulty paying attention, and others.
- Diagnosis may involve a sleep study in which a sleep specialist monitors your
to help you get the most from a visit to your provider:
the reason for your visit and what you want to happen.
your visit, write down questions you want answered.
someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your provider tells
- At the
visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis and any new medicines, treatments, or
tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you.
why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed, and how it will help you. Also know
what the side effects are.
- Ask if
your condition can be treated in other ways.
why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
what to expect if you don’t take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
- If you
have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that
- Know how
you can contact your provider if you have questions.