What is Insomnia?

What is Insomnia?

Insomnia is a sleep disorder whereby a person has trouble staying asleep. It can be short-term or long-term, depending on the cause, and the condition might also come and go. Insomnia might be acute or chronic, which is determined by the number of days you lose sleep. The former lasts for one night for a few weeks while the latter lasts for three nights or more in a week and continues for months. 

Causes of Sleeplessness

There are primary and secondary causes of insomnia. The primary causes include:

• Stress related to any changes in your personal life, such as losing your job, getting divorced, failing in school 

• Your surroundings, such as light, noise, or temperature

• Any change that affects your sleep schedule, such as being jet-lagged, night shifts at work, poor habits you picked up during other nights of sleeplessness

• Genes. Research shows that the disorder can run in families 

On the other hand, secondary causes of sleeplessness are:

• Mental health issues such as depression, stress, and anxiety

• Some medications are associated with sleeplessness, such as cold medications, hypertension drugs, antidepressants, and asthma drugs

• Any sort of pain or discomfort 

• Using caffeine, alcohol, or tobacco

• Endocrine disorders such as hyperthyroidism

• Menopause

• Pregnancy

• Restless legs syndrome or sleep apnea

• Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease


Generally, an insomniac has trouble falling asleep. Others might wake up too early before the usual hours. Apart from disrupting your sleep pattern, it might lead to other issues like:

• Fatigue or sleepiness during daytime

• Reduced energy or motivation

• Irritability, anxiety, or depression

• Poor concentration

• Gastrointestinal problems

• Lack of coordination (the leading cause of accidents)

• Tension headaches

How to Diagnose the Condition

Clinicians can help diagnose the condition and treat it. Your doctor will diagnose insomnia if you have difficulty falling asleep or if you stay awake for too long. If this happens for three nights in a week for 3 months, they will most likely diagnose the condition. 

During the diagnosis, the doctor might perform the following:

• Ask you about your medical history, history of drug or alcohol use, and your sleep pattern

• A comprehensive physical examination

• Do tests for any underlying conditions that cause sleeplessness

• Do an overnight sleep test to learn your sleep pattern

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• Give you a device that will track any movement and your sleep-wake patterns

To make things easier, it’s recommended you record your sleep patterns and take the results with you during your appointment with the doctor. 


There are both medical and non-medical treatments for insomnia. Before finding the method that’s effective for you, you might have to try different treatments. Specialists recommend cognitive behavioral therapy as the first-line treatment of sleeplessness. This can include:

• Proper sleep hygiene. It can help you change some disruptive behavior that keeps you awake 

• Avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco use near bedtime

• Avoiding exercise near your bedtime

• Avoiding staying in bed when you don’t intend to sleep. For example, watching TV while in bed

They also recommend well-being and proper relaxation, which can be achieved through the following:

• Exercising regularly but not too near bedtime

• Performing breathing and relaxation workouts before bedtime

• Avoiding napping during daytime even when you feel sleepy

• Soothing yourself to sleep using music or reading


If the methods mentioned above don’t help, your doctor might resolve to use medications to treat the condition. For example, a doctor might recommend an over-the-counter medication such as diphenhydramine. Other prescription medications are eszopiclone and zolpidem. If there’s an underlying condition contributing to your sleeplessness, getting the right treatment will help solve the problem. 


Insomnia is a common problem that results from a number of issues. It could be mental, physical issues, or your environment. Lack of sleep can cause many problems like tiredness or chronic illnesses. Therefore, it’s important you seek the right treatment once you realize you have a sleep problem.

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