What is insomnia?

Good night's sleep

Insomnia is one of the most prevalent sleep disorders and is characterized by difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or both. This results in chronic fatigue and daytime tiredness. People with insomnia often do not feel rested.

Types of insomnia

Acute insomnia refers to short-term sleeping problems (lasting less than three months) usually brought on by stress or emotional concerns. Environmental issues like excessive noise can also cause acute insomnia. Short-term problems related to work, family or money can cause it.

Long-term, chronic insomnia is more serious and affects roughly 10 to 15 percent of adults in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health. This type of insomnia is associated with difficulty sleeping over an extended period of time. According to the National Sleep Foundation, difficulty falling asleep may be linked to your bedtime. More specifically, if your bedtime is not synchronized with your biological clock, sleep difficulties may result. For example, a change in your work schedule could trigger insomnia.

A wide array of underlying medical conditions may also cause insomnia. Similarly, certain medications are known to disrupt sleep. Even so, the occurrence of sleep problems seems to increase with age.

Side effects of insomnia

People with insomnia do not receive the restorative sleep the body needs. This can affect work performance and can increase the risk of accidents. In fact, there is a growing body of evidence suggesting that sleepy driving is as dangerous as drunk driving. Similarly, inadequate sleep and daytime drowsiness make it more difficult for the brain to focus and concentrate. Chronic sleep problems may also increase the risk of developing a mood disorder, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Chronic sleep loss has also been linked to medical conditions like heart disease and obesity.

Treatment

The first step in improving insomnia is to first rule out an underlying medical condition. If one is present, doctors will first treat the root cause. Otherwise, environmental changes can be made to improve sleep quality. This includes avoiding stimulants like caffeine, not eating close to bedtime or removing the TV from your bedroom. Behavioral therapy can also be helpful in adopting healthier sleep habits. In some cases, prescription sleep aids may be necessary.

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