What Is Insomnia?

Insomnia is a sleep disorder that causes difficulty falling and/or staying asleep. It is the most common of all sleep disorders, according to the American Psychiatric Association. In fact, one-third of adults report insomnia symptoms, with 6-10 percent of the population having symptoms severe enough to be diagnosed with the disorder.

What Are the Symptoms of Insomnia? man in bed eyes opened suffering insomnia and sleep disorder

Symptoms of insomnia include:

  • Trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Unrefreshing/unrestful sleep
  • Waking up too early in the morning
  • Daytime fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Mood changes
  • Trouble concentrating

Physicians make a clinical diagnosis of insomnia if…

  • Sleep difficulties occur at least three nights a week for a minimum of three months
  • Sleep difficulties cause major distress or functional difficulties

What Causes Insomnia?

Short term insomnia, also called acute insomnia, can be caused by:

  • Stress
  • A traumatic event
  • Changes in sleep habits
  • Physical pain
  • Jet lag
  • Change in medications

Chronic insomnia lasting three months or longer can be primary, meaning it has no known cause, or secondary, meaning it occurs with another condition. Causes of secondary chronic insomnia include:

  • Medical conditions like arthritis
  • Psychological disorders like depression or anxiety
  • Substance use
  • Sleep apnea
  • Diabetes

What Are the Risk Factors for Insomnia?

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), common risk factors for insomnia include:

  • High stress levels
  • Emotional disorders, like depression or PTSD
  • Lower income
  • Traveling between time zones
  • Inactive lifestyle
  • Changes to work hours

Other risk factors include being female, being obese, having cardiovascular disease and having menopause. Insomnia can occur at any age.

How Is Insomnia Treated?

Doctors may recommend pharmaceutical or nonpharmaceutical treatments for insomnia. You may need to try a variety or a combination of treatments to find one that works for you.

Nonpharmaceutical Treatments

The American College of Physicians (ACP) recommends trying cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) as a first-line treatment for chronic insomnia. The goal of CBT is to promote self-awareness and teach strategies for changing unhealthy thinking patterns and behaviors that affect sleep.

Your doctor may also recommend sleep hygiene training. This entails changing behaviors that may be disrupting your sleep. Suggested lifestyle modifications include:

  • Avoiding caffeine near bedtime
  • Exercising earlier in the day
  • Minimizing time in bed spent on activities other than sleep
  • Eliminating screen time close to bedtime

Pharmaceutical Treatments

Over-the-counter and prescription medications may be recommended for some cases of insomnia. The doctor may recommend an antihistamine as an OTC option, or Lunesta or Ambien as a prescription option.

For more information about treating insomnia or to schedule an appointment with a sleep expert, call Topeka ENT today.

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