8 Facts About Insomnia

by Allison Tsai Editor

Insomnia is a common sleep problem that can wreak havoc on your daily life. Lack of sleep can leave you feeling tired and unfocused and even lead to anxiety, depression and irritability.

The main symptoms are trouble falling asleep and staying asleep

Many people find that they lie awake for a long time before falling asleep, sleep for short periods of time or lay awake for most of the night. Feeling as if you haven’t slept at all or that you wake up too early are also common signs of insomnia.

Insomnia can be short-term or ongoing

Short-term, or acute, insomnia is usually brought on by stress at work, family pressure or a traumatic event. This type of insomnia will typically last for a few days or weeks. Chronic insomnia can last for months or longer, and in many cases, it is a symptom or side effect of another condition or a medication.

Your doctor may recommend a sleep study

This is helpful for people who may have a sleep disorder that is causing the insomnia. This is called a polysomnogram (PSG) and will record brain activity, eye movement, heart rate and blood pressure. It will also record the amount of oxygen in the blood and how much air is moving through your nose as you breathe. Snoring and chest movements will also be checked.

Lifestyle change can help short-term insomnia

Remove caffeine and tobacco from your diet and cut out over-the-counter prescriptions that disrupt sleep, such as cold and allergy medicines. Avoid alcohol as well, because it promotes a light sleep that will cause you to wake up during the night. Exercise and good bedtime habits will also go a long way to curb insomnia.

Staying on a sleep schedule helps

In addition to exercising five to six hours prior to going to bed, good bedtime habits include limiting distractions and removing light from the bedroom. This means limiting TVs, computers or even a pet in your room. The temperature should be cool, and the room should be dark and quiet to promote sleep. Go to bed at the same time and wake up at the same time every day.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy may be necessary

Simple lifestyle changes will not do the trick. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy aims to reduce anxiety with relaxation techniques and biofeedback. Techniques help you to control your breathing, heart rate, muscles and mood.

Medication is an option

Prescription and over-the-counter medications can be used to treat insomnia, although some are meant for only short-term use. Natural supplements to treat insomnia, however, are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and their effects are not proven.

You are not alone

An estimated 150 million people in the developing world are affected by insomnia. Researchers did a sleep analysis of pan-African and Asian countries, and found that 16.6 percent of the population reported insomnia or other sleep disturbances. In the U.S. and Canada, researchers say 20 percent of the adult population suffers from insomnia.

Allison Tsai
Meet Our Writer
Allison Tsai

Allison wrote for HealthCentral as an editor and producer for Allergy, Asthma, Cold & Flu, COPD, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Skin Care, Skin Cancer, and Sleep Disorders.