What is Insomnia?

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder. People who have insomnia have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or both. Insomnia can be acute (short-term) or chronic (ongoing). Acute insomnia is common and often is brought on by situations such as stress at work, family pressures, or a traumatic event. Acute insomnia lasts for days or weeks.

Chronic insomnia lasts for a month or longer. Most cases of chronic insomnia are secondary, which means they are the symptom or side effect of some other problem. Certain medical conditions, medicines, sleep disorders, and substances can cause secondary insomnia.

In contrast, primary insomnia isn't due to medical problems, medicines, or other substances. It is its own distinct disorder, and its cause isn’t well understood. Many life changes can trigger primary insomnia, including long-lasting stress and emotional upset.

What are the symptoms of Insomnia?

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Difficulty staying asleep (that is, waking up many times during the night), without necessarily having had any difficulty falling asleep
  • Waking up too early in the morning
  • Not feeling refreshed after a night's sleep
  • Daytime sleepiness and lack of energy
  • Feelings of anxiety, depression or irritability
  • Trouble focusing on tasks, paying attention, learning or remembering

How is Insomnia diagnosed?

In making a diagnosis of Insomnia, your doctor will ask you about your sleeping habits, how much sleep you get at night, if you wake up at night, and whether you fall asleep during the day. Your doctor will also want to know if you are having any emotional problems or are taking any drugs that may be interfering with your sleep. You may be asked to keep a sleep diary for a period of time.

Your doctor may also order some tests, including blood tests, computed tomography (CT) scans, and a sleep test called polysomnography (PSG or NPSG).

How is Insomnia treated?

If you are diagnosed with Insomnia, your doctor may suggest changes to your sleep routines and sleep environment or prescribe medications. If you insomnia is caused by other underlying sleep disorders, you may be prescribed therapy such as Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP).


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