Insomnia causes sleep deprivation and lack of sleep can lead to all sorts of problems, both mental and physical. Your thinking becomes fuzzy, you are unable to concentrate and you have lapses in memory.
Prolonged insomnia and the resultant sleep deprivation can lead to depression and other serious mental problems.
Physically, lack of sleep weakens the immune system, opening the door to all sorts of disorders and diseases.
Causes of Chronic Insomnia
Stress is a major cause of chronic insomnia, but often insomnia is a symptom rather than a stand-alone disorder. Something else, another condition or a disease, could be the true cultprit. One of the first things you and your doctor will need to determine is why you aren't sleeping.
You can find more information about the causes of insomnia in this helpful guide.
Prescription Drugs for Insomnia
Following your diagnosis, your doctor may have given you a prescription for a sleep medication. There are many medications on the market. Unfortunately, most of them have some bad side effects. Be sure to ask your doctor or your pharmacist what to expect while taking the prescribed drug. Also, remember that most of these drugs are not addictive, but may be habit forming.
Learn more about Nonprescription and Prescription Drugs
If you're interested, the government holds clinical trials dealing with new methods and new medications. You might benefit by being on the cutting edge of recent research. You can find a list of ongoing trials here.
Learning Good Sleeping Habits
Medication is not your only weapon against insomnia. You can start by practicing good sleep hygiene. Try to keep to a regular daily schedule, not only for going to bed and getting up, but also for meals. Establish a bedtime ritual, tasks that you perform every night to tell your mind and body that it's time to wind down and relax. This could include a warm bath, meditation or prayer, a glass of warm milk or an hour spent reading a good book.
Avoid eating a heavy meal too close to bedtime. Bloating, gas and heartburn can disturb your sleep. Avoid caffeine. It's a stimulant, which is why we drink it in the morning to wake us up and get us going. That's not the effect we want to have at bedtime. Coffee is one source of caffeine, but there are others including chocolate, many colas and some over-the-counter and prescription drugs.