What is insomnia?

If you have insomnia, you have trouble falling asleep or remaining asleep. You may not feel refreshed when you wake up. Insomnia may be temporary or acute, or it may be chronic (symptoms occur three or more times a week for more than a month). Insomnia may be due to emotional, neurological, medical or sleep disorders or due to certain medications, stimulants, or drug or alcohol use.

Sleep Problems Spotlight

Insomnia can lead to daytime drowsiness, fatigue, slowed reaction times, anxiety, irritability, and depression. It can affect your performance at work or in school. Insomnia can also increase your risk of accidents and falls. According to estimates, drowsy drivers account for more than 100,000 auto accidents each year (Source: NHLBI).

Treatment of insomnia begins with evaluation of possible causes. A sleep diary may be helpful in identifying sleep patterns and the severity of your insomnia. If a sleep disorder is suspected, a sleep study called a polysomnogram may be performed.

If an underlying cause is identified, treating it may be enough to relieve the insomnia. Lifestyle changes, such as exercising in the morning, avoiding stimulants, such as caffeine past midday, avoiding alcohol before bed, developing good sleep habits, and limiting bedtime distractions, can often be quite helpful. Cognitive-behavioral therapy may be recommended for some people. Medications may also be helpful, but some are habit-forming and some have other potentially serious side effects.

Insomnia may be a temporary problem that resolves on its own or it may be chronic. Seek prompt medical care if you develop chronic insomnia, especially if it is interfering with your daily life or causing other problems. Also seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for insomnia but the symptoms persist, recur or worsen.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of insomnia?

If you have insomnia you may not feel refreshed when you wake up or you may feel drowsy while you are awake. Drowsiness may contribute to accidents, lack of focus, inattention, and poor performance. Anxiety or depression may occur, or worsen if already present.... Read more about insomniasymptoms

CAUSES

What causes insomnia?

Insomnia can be caused by a variety of medical conditions, neurological conditions, mental health conditions, lifestyle habits, sleep disorders, stress, and some medications. Sometimes, a cause cannot be identified.... Read more about insomniacauses

TREATMENTS

How is insomnia treated?

Treatment of insomnia begins with seeking regular medical care throughout your life. Regular medical care allows a health care professional to provide early screening tests. Regular medical care also provides an opportunity for your health care professional to promptly evaluate symptoms and your risks for developing insomnia.... Read more about insomniatreatments

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Brain and Nerves