Insomnia

It is not unusual to have sleep troubles from time to time. But, if you feel that you do not get enough sleep or satisfying sleep, you may have insomnia, a sleep disorder. People with insomnia have one or more of the following:

  • difficulty falling asleep
  • waking up often during the night and having trouble going back to sleep
  • waking up too early in the morning;
  • unrefreshing sleep

insomnia01Insomnia can cause problems during the day, such as sleepiness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and irritability. A person with insomnia may also have another sleep disorder such as sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and restless legs syndrome.

Insomnia is not defined by the number of hours you sleep every night. The amount of sleep a person needs varies. While most people need between 7 and 8 hours of sleep a night, some people do well with less, and some need more. About 60 million Americans each year suffer from insomnia, which can lead to serious sleep deficits and problems. Insomnia tends to increase with age and affects about 40 percent of women and 30 percent of men.

TYPES OF INSOMNIA

  1. Primary insomnia means that a person is having sleep problems that are not directly associated with any other health condition or problem.
  2. Secondary insomnia means that a person is having sleep problems because of something else, such as a health condition (like depression, heartburn, cancer, asthma, arthritis), pain, medication they are taking, or a substance they are using (like alcohol).
  3. Acute (short-term) insomnia can last from one night to a few weeks. It is often caused by emotional or physical discomfort, and can be related to a single specific event. Causes of acute insomnia can include:
    • significant life stress (job loss or change, death of a loved one, moving)
    • illness
    • environmental factors like noise, light, or extreme temperatures (hot or cold) that interfere with sleep
    • things that throw off a normal sleep schedule (like jet lag or switching from a day to night shift).
  4. Chronic (long-term) insomnia is when a person has insomnia at least 3 nights a week for 1 month or longer. It can be caused by many things and often occurs along with other health problems. Common causes of chronic insomnia are depression, chronic stress, and pain or discomfort at night.
    • environmental factors like noise, light, or extreme temperatures (hot or cold) that interfere with sleep
    • things that throw off a normal sleep schedule (like jet lag or switching from a day to night shift).

DIAGNOSING INSOMNIA

If you think you have insomnia, talk to your health care provider. An evaluation may include a physical exam, a medical history, and a sleep history. You may be asked to keep a sleep diary (Link to Sleep Diary Page) for a week or two, keeping track of your sleep patterns and how you feel during the day. Your health care provider may want to interview your bed partner about the quantity and quality of your sleep. You may be referred to a sleep center such as PM Sleep Lab for special tests.