Derived from the Latin in (not) and somnus (sleep), Insomnia is a condition that is characterized by difficulty falling asleep and remaining asleep. Insomnia comes in many varieties, and cases vary from person to person. Insomnia can be a comorbid disorder, a psychiatric disorder that coexists with a second psychiatric disorder, or it can stand alone as a primary disorder.

What Causes Insomnia?

The causes of insomnia vary from person to person, depending on whether it is a primary condition or a secondary condition. When insomnia is a secondary condition, it is usually caused by some other mental disorder such as depression or anxiety. Primary insomnia is often caused by substance abuse, the use of caffeine or alcohol, using a computer late into the evening, certain medications, frequent traveling across time zones, sleeping near somebody who snores, and other controllable factors. Insomnia is sometimes caused by aging, menopause, hormonal fluctuations such as a woman’s menstrual cycle and other medical issues like heartburn. When it comes down to it, there are many causes for insomnia, and it’s important to talk to your doctor to see what might be causing your lack of sleep.

Common Symptoms of Insomnia

Insomnia side effects can be easy to miss in the beginning and a person may not know they have a problem for some time. People with insomnia may experience a variety of symptoms including:

  • Difficulty falling asleep for night time rest
  • Awakening during the night
  • Waking up earlier than desired
  • Not feeling rested, daytime fatigue
  • Irritability and frustration
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Other physical symptoms like headaches and upset stomach
  • Worry and anxiety about sleep
  • Unable to complete tasks during the daytime

Treatment for Insomnia

Sometimes insomnia can be easily cured by simply eliminating or changing the original cause, if possible. This means not drinking alcohol or caffeine at least a couple of hours before bedtime and staying away from a computer screen in the evening. Relaxation techniques such as taking a warm bath (not a hot bath, as you shouldn’t raise your core temperature), drinking herbal teas like chamomile or performing yoga stretches before bed can aid in restful sleep. Other causes are more complex, so treatment might require the help of a professional. Sometimes sleep aid medications are appropriate. If you suspect your insomnia is in conjunction with depression or anxiety, you should seek help from a professional therapist to ease the problem. If insomnia is causing problems and lifestyle changes aren’t helping, talk to your regular health care provider to see what treatment is best for you. Keeping a healthy lifestyle complete with exercise, proper nutrition, hydration and dietary supplements such as a daily multivitamin or Omega-3 fatty acids can aid in healthy sleep patterns.

What Should You Do?

Most likely, you know if your sleeping problems are the result of depression, changeable factors like caffeine use, or are part of menopause or other normal life phases. It’s important in any case to maintain a healthy lifestyle and try relaxation techniques before bed. But it’s also a good idea to talk to your doctor, especially if insomnia is keeping you from functioning optimally in your daily life. Call your doctor or a local therapist to see what you can do to finally get consistent, restful sleep.

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