Insomnia: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Insomnia is a type of sleep disorder. Individuals with insomnia find it difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep, or both. People with insomnia often don’t feel refreshed when they wake up from sleeping, either. This can lead to fatigue and other symptoms.

Causes of Insomnia.

The cause of your insomnia will depend on the type of sleeplessness you experience.

Short-term insomnia, or acute insomnia, may be caused by several things including:

  • stress
  • an upsetting or traumatic event
  • changes to your sleep habits, like sleeping in a hotel or new home
  • physical pain
  • jet lag
  • certain medications

Chronic insomnia can be primary or secondary. Primary insomnia has no known cause, while secondary insomnia occurs with another condition that can include:

Having certain medical conditions, such as obesity and cardiovascular disease, can also lead to insomnia. Menopause can lead to insomnia as well.

Insomnia symptoms

People who experience insomnia usually report at least one of these symptoms:

  • waking too early in the morning
  • unrefreshing sleep
  • trouble falling or staying asleep

These symptoms of insomnia can lead to other symptoms, including:

You may also have difficulty concentrating on tasks during the day. 

Treating insomnia

There are both pharmaceutical and nonpharmaceutical treatments for insomnia. Your doctor can talk to you about what treatments might be appropriate. You may need to try a number of different treatments before finding the one that’s most effective for you.

The American College of Physicians (ACP) recommends cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) as a first-line treatment for chronic insomnia in adults.

Sleep hygiene training may also be recommended. Sometimes, behaviours that interfere with sleep cause insomnia. Sleep hygiene training can help you change some of these disruptive behaviours.

Suggested sleep hygiene changes may include:

  • avoiding caffeinated beverages near bedtime
  • avoiding exercise near bedtime
  • minimizing time spent on your bed when you’re not specifically intending to sleep, such as watching TV or surfing the web on your phone.

If there’s an underlying psychological or medical disorder contributing to your insomnia, getting appropriate treatment for it can alleviate sleep difficulties.

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