What Is Insomnia?
Insomnia is the most common type of sleep disorder and it involves problems falling asleep or staying asleep despite adequate opportunity to do so.
There are three types of insomnia:
- Short-term insomnia disorder
- Chronic insomnia disorder
- Other insomnia disorder (symptoms that do not meet the criteria for the other two types of insomnia)
What Are Symptoms and Signs of Insomnia?
Symptoms and signs of insomnia include the following:
- Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
- Variable sleep
- Daytime fatigue or sleepiness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Decreased motivation or energy
- Increased errors or accidents
- Persistent worry about sleep
What Causes Insomnia?
Insomnia may be caused by multiple factors. The main cause of insomnia is believed to be a state of mental and/or physical hyperarousal that interferes with falling asleep or staying asleep.
Causes of insomnia include:
- Changes in sleeping environment
- Loss of a loved one
- Loss of a pet
- Job loss
- Illnesses, especially those that cause stress or difficulty breathing
- Unhealthy lifestyle habits
- Use of or withdrawal from some medications and illegal drugs
- Irregular sleep habits
- Irregular sleep schedules that disrupt the circadian rhythm
- Jet lag
- Shift work
- Mental health problems
- Neurological disorders
- Parkinson’s disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
- Autism spectrum disorder
- Other sleep disorders
- Disrupted breathing
- Nighttime urinary frequency
- Restless leg syndrome
- Age: teenagers and elderly experience insomnia more frequently
- May not have a known cause
How Do Doctors Diagnose Insomnia?
Sleep disorders are diagnosed with a patient history and physical exam. Tests or procedures that may be used to diagnose sleep disorders or to rule out other underlying conditions include the following:
- Daily sleep log
- Sleep study (polysomnography)
- Record of activity and movement with a monitor or motion detector, generally worn on the wrist throughout the day and night (actigraphy)
- Home sleep apnea testing
- Home devices that monitor breathing, oxygen saturation, position, and heart rate
- Melatonin sampling
- Core body temperature measurements
- Hormone tests
- Electrocardiogram (ECG)
- Computerized tomography (CT) scan
- Pulmonary function tests
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain
What Is the Treatment for Insomnia?
Treatment for insomnia includes the following:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I)
- Sleep education
- Sleep restriction or sleep compression
- Stimulus control
- Sleep hygiene
- Relaxation exercises
- Sleep medications, both over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Martin, Jennifer L., and David N. Neubauer. "Patient education: Insomnia treatments (Beyond the Basics)." UpToDate.com. Jan. 30, 2022. <https://www.uptodate.com/contents/insomnia-treatments-beyond-the-basics>.
"Sleep Disorders." American Academy of Sleep Medicine. <http://sleepeducation.org/essentials-in-sleep>.
Suni, Eric. "What Causes Insomnia?" American Academy of Sleep Medicine. Aug. 29, 2022. <https://www.sleepfoundation.org/insomnia/what-causes-insomnia>.