Insomnia is a persistent disorder that can make it hard to fall asleep, hard to stay asleep or both, despite the opportunity for adequate sleep. With insomnia, you usually feel restless, which takes a toll on your ability to function during the day. Insomnia can sap not only your energy level and mood but also your health, work performance and quality of life.
Many adults experience insomnia at some point, but some people have long-term (chronic) insomnia. Insomnia may be the primary problem, or it may be secondary due to other causes, such as a disease or medication.
Insomnia symptoms may include:
- Difficulty falling asleep at night
- Awakening during the night
- Awakening too early
- Not feeling well rested after a night's sleep
- Daytime tiredness or sleepiness
- Irritability, depression or anxiety
- Difficulty paying attention, focusing on tasks or remembering
- Increased errors or accidents
- Tension headaches
- Distress in the stomach and intestines
- Ongoing worries about sleep
Someone with insomnia will often take 30 minutes or more to fall asleep and may get only six or fewer hours of sleep for three or more nights a week over a month or more.
Common causes of insomnia include:
- Medical conditions
- Change in your environment or work schedule
- Poor sleep habits
- Caffeine, nicotine and alcohol
- Eating too much late in the evening
In addition to asking you a number of questions, your doctor may have you complete a questionnaire to determine your sleep-wake pattern and your level of daytime sleepiness. You may also be asked to keep a sleep diary for a couple of weeks if you haven't already done so.
Your doctor will likely do a physical exam to look for signs of other problems that may be causing insomnia. Occasionally, a blood test may be done to check for thyroid problems or other conditions that can cause insomnia.
If the cause of your insomnia isn't clear, or you have signs of another sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome, you may need to spend a night at a sleep center, like Torrance Memorial Sleep Disorder Center. Tests are done to monitor and record a variety of body activities while you sleep, including brain waves, breathing, heartbeat, eye movements and body movements.
Changing your sleep habits and addressing any underlying causes of insomnia, such as medical conditions or medications, can restore restful sleep for many people. If these measures don't work, your doctor may recommend medications to help with relaxation and sleep.