Insomnia is a disorder that can make it hard to fall asleep, hard to stay asleep, or cause you to wake up too early and not be able to get back to sleep.
Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that can make it hard to fall asleep, hard to stay asleep, or cause you to wake up too early and not be able to get back to sleep. You may still feel tired when you wake up. Insomnia can sap not only your energy level and mood but also your health, work performance and quality of life.
How much sleep is enough varies from person to person, but most adults need seven to eight hours a night.
At some point, many adults experience short-term (acute) insomnia, which lasts for days or weeks. It's usually the result of stress or a traumatic event. But some people have long-term (chronic) insomnia that lasts for a month or more. Insomnia may be the primary problem, or it may be associated with other medical conditions or medications.
You don't have to put up with sleepless nights. Simple changes in your daily habits can often help.
Insomnia symptoms may include:
If insomnia makes it hard for you to function during the day, see your doctor to identify the cause of your sleep problem and how it can be treated. If your doctor thinks you could have a sleep disorder, you might be referred to a sleep center for special testing.
Insomnia may be the primary problem, or it may be associated with other conditions.
Chronic insomnia is usually a result of stress, life events or habits that disrupt sleep. Treating the underlying cause can resolve the insomnia, but sometimes it can last for years.
Common causes of chronic insomnia include:
Chronic insomnia may also be associated with medical conditions or the use of certain drugs. Treating the medical condition may help improve sleep, but the insomnia may persist after the medical condition improves.
Additional common causes of insomnia include:
Insomnia becomes more common with age. As you get older, you may experience:
Sleep problems may be a concern for children and teenagers as well. However, some children and teens simply have trouble getting to sleep or resist a regular bedtime because their internal clocks are more delayed. They want to go to bed later and sleep later in the morning.
Nearly everyone has an occasional sleepless night. But your risk of insomnia is greater if:
Sleep is as important to your health as a healthy diet and regular physical activity. Whatever your reason for sleep loss, insomnia can affect you both mentally and physically. People with insomnia report a lower quality of life compared with people who are sleeping well.
Complications of insomnia may include:
Good sleep habits can help prevent insomnia and promote sound sleep:
Depending on your situation, the diagnosis of insomnia and the search for its cause may include:
Changing your sleep habits and addressing any issues that may be associated with insomnia, such as stress, medical conditions or medications, can restore restful sleep for many people. If these measures don't work, your doctor may recommend cognitive behavioral therapy, medications or both, to help improve relaxation and sleep.
Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) can help you control or eliminate negative thoughts and actions that keep you awake and is generally recommended as the first line of treatment for people with insomnia. Typically, CBT-I is equally or more effective than sleep medications.
The cognitive part of CBT-I teaches you to recognize and change beliefs that affect your ability to sleep. It can help you control or eliminate negative thoughts and worries that keep you awake. It may also involve eliminating the cycle that can develop where you worry so much about getting to sleep that you can't fall asleep.
The behavioral part of CBT-I helps you develop good sleep habits and avoid behaviors that keep you from sleeping well. Strategies include, for example:
Your doctor may recommend other strategies related to your lifestyle and sleep environment to help you develop habits that promote sound sleep and daytime alertness.
Prescription sleeping pills can help you get to sleep, stay asleep or both. Doctors generally don't recommend relying on prescription sleeping pills for more than a few weeks, but several medications are approved for long-term use.
Prescription sleeping pills can have side effects, such as causing daytime grogginess and increasing the risk of falling, or they can be habit-forming, so talk to your doctor about these medications and other possible side effects.
Nonprescription sleep medications contain antihistamines that can make you drowsy, but they're not intended for regular use. Talk to your doctor before you take these, as antihistamines may cause side effects, such as daytime sleepiness, dizziness, confusion, cognitive decline and difficulty urinating, which may be worse in older adults.
No matter what your age, insomnia usually is treatable. The key often lies in changes to your routine during the day and when you go to bed. These tips may help.
Many people never visit their doctor for insomnia and try to cope with sleeplessness on their own. Although in many cases safety and effectiveness have not been proved, some people try therapies such as:
Because the Food and Drug Administration does not mandate that manufacturers show proof of effectiveness or safety before marketing dietary supplement sleep aids, talk with your doctor before taking any herbal supplements or other OTC products. Some products can be harmful and some can cause harm if you're taking certain medications.
If you're having sleep problems, you'll likely start by talking to your primary care doctor. Ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as keep a sleep diary. Take your bed partner along, if possible. Your doctor may want to talk to your partner to learn more about how much and how well you're sleeping.
Prepare for your appointment by making a list of:
Basic questions to ask your doctor include:
Don't hesitate to ask other questions during your appointment.
Your doctor may ask you several questions, such as those below.
About your insomnia:
About your day:
About your bedtime routine:
About other issues that may affect your sleep: