What is insomnia?

Insomnia is a sleep disorder that is characterized by poor sleep or a difficulty in sleeping.
It can involve:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Difficulty staying asleep (waking up several times during the night)
  • Sleep being interrupted
  • Waking up too early in the morning
  • Waking up without feeling restful or refreshed

It is a very common condition, many adults suffer from it.

What causes insomnia?

Insomnia can be the result of a number of things such as:

  • Stress
  • Psychiatric problems (e.g. Depression, Anxiety, Drug or Alcohol use)
  • Medical problems
  • Lifestyle habits:
    • Too much caffeine
    • Changes in work shift
    • Smoking
    • Frequent travelling and crossing time zones
Who is affected by insomnia?
  • Anyone can be affected by insomnia.
  • Insomnia is usually more common among females than males.
  • Insomnia is a more frequent problem among individuals 65 years and older.
  • Insomnia is more common in individuals who have medical conditions and are on medication.
How do I know if I have insomnia?
  • You are having a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep.
  • You are waking earlier than usual.
  • You are feeling tired during the day.
  • You are sleeping during the day.
  • You are concerned or worrying about sleep.
How is insomnia diagnosed?

Your doctor usually diagnoses insomnia by listening to your symptoms and asking more about your sleeping problems.

  • How long have you had this problem?
  • Does it occur every night?
  • Does it affect your functioning during the day?
  • Do you snore?
  • Do you have any medical or psychiatric problems?
  • Are you taking any medication?
  • Advanced methods and sleep studies may be needed to rule out other medical problems or problems related to sleep.
Can insomnia be treated?

Stress reduction is an important part of treatment

  • Listening to music, warm baths
  • Meditation and yoga
  • And changing lifestyle habits

Medications may be prescribed to you to help you sleep, but for a limited number of nights, because of their addictive potential.
Sometimes long-term treatment might be needed.

Good sleeping habits

Before bedtime

  • Establish a routine for bedtime
  • Create a positive sleep environment
  • Relax before getting into bed
  • Avoid alcohol, smoking, and caffeine for at least few hours before bedtime

While in bed

  • If you have trouble falling asleep in 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something relaxing (read,  listen to relaxing music, etc)
  • Go to bed only when you are sleepy
  • Avoid doing activities other than sleep in bed (e.g. eating or reading in bed)

Mornings and daytime

  • Establish a routine of waking up at the same time each morning, even on weekends
  • Avoid naps during the day
  • Avoid caffeine especially in the late afternoon and evenings
  • Exercise regularly but try to avoid exercising a few hours before bedtime.
Useful links on insomnia