Back to Medical Conditions



Not getting enough sleep can be rough. You lay awake for hours and you try everything you can to doze off. Insomnia is a condition that affects millions of people in the United States. You may only have a case of temporary insomnia or you may suffer for a long-term period of time. It can affect work and school. In fact, insomnia accounts for a $63 Billion dollar total loss for the U.S. workplaces combined. The struggle is real and this article will help you understand more about this troubling condition and some helpful tips to manage it.

What is Insomnia

Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep and stay asleep. It is classified as a sleep disorder and people with this condition do not get enough sleep. They also do not get refreshing sleep after they do fall asleep.
The condition may only last a short while during times of emotional trauma, stress, or financial trouble. This is known as, acute insomnia and usually clears up within a week or two. It can also be long-term as a symptom of something else going on. This is known as, chronic insomnia and could be related to:

Medication side-effects
Actual sleep disorders
Substance abuse

Both acute and chronic insomnia can lead to disruption in daily life. You may feel daytime sleepiness and be unable to pay attention, complete needed tasks, or experience problems with learning. It can also cause problems with driving or operating heavy machinery.

Symptoms of Insomnia

The main symptom of insomnia is the inability to fall asleep and/or stay asleep. The rest of the symptoms occur because you are not getting enough sleep. These are:

Sleepy during daytime hours
Unrefreshing sleep
Early waking
Stomach upset
Irritable moods
Trouble thinking
Worry about sleep issues

Insomnia is when it takes more than 30 minutes to fall asleep. You may only sleep less than six hours and insomnia occurs two to three nights every week for longer than one month.

Causes of Insomnia

Insomnia can be due to a number of factors including:
Changes in Routine. If you have been traveling across time zones, started working a night shift, or changed from night shift to day shift your body will not know when it is time to sleep. This usually only results in temporary insomnia.
Emotional Upset. If you have had recent emotional trauma, you may be unable to sleep if you are thinking about the event.
Stress and Anxiety. Anxiety and stress can make your thoughts race. Thinking about family, school, or work too close to bedtime may make it hard to fall asleep.
Depression. People with depression often feel tired and nap during the daytime hours. These naps can make it hard to fall asleep at night.
Medication. Certain medications have stimulant side-effects that can interfere with sleep. These include; allergy medication, heart medication, blood pressure pills, antidepressants, steroids, and decongestants.
Health Conditions. Some medical problems make it hard to sleep such as; pain, breathing trouble, frequent nighttime urination, and heartburn.
Sleep routine. If you look at your phone screen in bed or watch TV, you may be interfering with your sleep routine. Your bed should only be for sleep.
Using caffeine too late. Try not to drink too much caffeine in the afternoon or later in the day.
Eating Too Late. Going to bed with a full stomach can stall your sleep. Eat dinner early and keep bedtime snacks light.

Risk Factors for Insomnia

There are some factors that increase your risk for insomnia including:

Female gender
Age over 60
Travel across time zones
Night shift work
High stress
History of depression or anxiety

Diagnosing Insomnia

Unfortunately, no test can diagnose insomnia. Your doctor will ask you questions about your sleep habits, possible have you do an overnight sleep study test, and may order lab tests to see if there is a physical cause. You may also be asked to keep a log of your sleep habits.

Insomnia Treatment

Before you try prescription medication for sleep, your doctor may recommend a few things that may help including:

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (Relaxation techniques, anxiety relief, therapy)
Over-The-Counter Medications
Lifestyle Changes

If the above things do not work your doctor may put you on a prescription medication for insomnia short-term. They do have side-effects like; sleep walking, sleep driving, and sleep eating. Some people do things in their sleep they don’t remember doing.

Lifestyle Changes for Insomnia

Avoid Stimulants Late in the Day.

Caffeine, Tobacco, and Other Stimulants. The effects of these substances can last as long as 8 hours.
Certain Over-the-Counter and Prescription Medicines that can Disrupt Sleep. For example, some cold and allergy medicines. Talk with your doctor about which medicines won’t disrupt your sleep.
Avoid Alcohol. Alcohol may help you go to sleep easier, but you will sleep lighter. People who drink alcohol before bed often find they wake up in the middle of the night.

Have a Good Sleep Routine. A bedtime routine can help you fall asleep and sleep better during the night. Do things like; bathe, meditate, read, or turn on nature sounds music. Do not exercise before bedtime as endorphins can be stimulating.
Make your Room Comfortable and NO Television in your Room. Keep your room around 68 degrees. Use table lamps instead of overhead lighting and avoid television or loud music in your room.
Keep the Same Bedtime. Start going to sleep at the same time every evening. If you have insomnia, avoid working night shifts. Keep your wake time the same every day too, even on your days off work.
Eat your Way to Good Sleep. Make sure you are eating enough carbohydrates to help your body make enough serotonin/melatonin. These are natural chemicals in your body that promote good sleep. Try eating a bowl of cereal or a granola bar in the evening. Also, make sure you are getting enough vitamins and minerals in your diet.

Alternative Medicine for Insomnia

Try an herbal remedy. If your doctor gives the okay, the following herbal remedies have been shown to help promote good sleep:

Melatonin. (1 to 3 mg at bedtime)
L-tryptophan. (Research shows 1 gram at bedtime helps sleep)
Valerian Root. (200 to 400mg at bedtime)
Chamomile. (400 to 1,600 mg a day. You can also drink the tea)
Kava kava. (100 to 250mg 1 to 3 times a day)

Note: Herbal remedies can have side-effects and sometimes severe drug interactions. Make sure you tell your doctor everything you are taking including herbs and check to see they are okay to use first.

Prognosis and Complications of Insomnia

If insomnia is just temporary, it should get better in a few days to weeks. Insomnia that is severe or chronic may take longer and need treatment. Understand that using prescription sleeping pills can encourage dependence on them, so lifestyle modifications should always be tried first.
The complications of insomnia can be serious. If you suffer from severe insomnia, make sure you are okay before driving, doing dangerous activities, or even taking care of others. Complications include:

Car accidents
Inability to think quickly and respond to danger
Poor learning
Weight gain
Irritable moods

The complications of insomnia may be preventable with early intervention. If you have symptoms of insomnia lasting more than a few days, see your doctor.

Recent Discussions

Join our community to get support for your condition and help others by sharing your experience.

Join the Insomnia Support Group

Join Aepios to share and learn about your medical condition

join our community for free