If you have difficulty with falling or staying asleep which results in problems with functioning during the day, you may have insomnia. It is a common and frustrating problem that affects up to 4 out of 10 people. In addition to poor and unrefreshing sleep, insomnia has been associated with decreased quality of life, difficulty at work, heart disease, and mood disorders.
Insomnia may occur on its own (primary insomnia) or be associated with other problems, such as:
- Psychiatric disorders, such as depression or anxiety
- Medical conditions, including heart burn, cardiovascular disease, sleep apnea and chronic pain
- Medications or substances such as alcohol
- Poor sleeping habits (aka sleep hygiene)
- Acute life stress, such as starting or losing a job
Because many conditions affect insomnia, it is important to identify causes or contributing factors. To start the process towards managing insomnia and getting a good night of sleep, a thorough evaluation by a sleep specialist is indicated. After this, strategies to treat insomnia may be determined.
Depending on the causes or conditions associated with insomnia, treatment ranges from non-medication related therapy (implementing good sleep hygiene, bright light therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy) to the use of prescription or non-prescription drugs (melatonin).
For more information on insomnia:
Mai E, Buysse DJ. Insomnia: prevalence, impact, pathogenesis, differential diagnosis and evaluation. Sleep Medicine Clinics. 2008;3:167-174.