Insomnia is a sleep disorder in which people cannot fall asleep or stay asleep. It is more common in women and older adults. Insomnia can include difficulty getting to sleep, waking up during the night and having trouble going back to sleep or waking up too early. Sometimes people experience all three. Some people experience insomnia for a short time, for example, when they are worried or stressed. But sometimes insomnia is chronic, meaning people have trouble falling or staying asleep for at least three months and are impaired during the day.
Apart from disrupted sleep, insomnia can lead to other issues, such as daytime fatigue or sleepiness, irritability, depression, or anxiety, gastrointestinal symptoms, low motivation or energy, poor concentration and focus, a lack of coordination, worry or anxiety about sleeping, using medication or alcohol to fall asleep, tension headaches and difficulty in socializing, working, or studying.
The experts describe different types of insomnia: acute insomnia, chronic insomnia, onset insomnia, maintenance insomnia and behavioural insomnia of childhood. Insomnia symptoms occur in approximately 33% to 50% of the adult population, while Chronic Insomnia disorder associated with distress or impairment is estimated at 10% to 15%.
Many things can contribute to the development of insomnia, including environmental, physiological and psychological factors, including unhealthy lifestyle and sleep habits, anxiety disorders, depression and other mental health problems, life stressors like your job, relationships, financial difficulties and more, chronic diseases like cancer, gastrointestinal disorders, such as heartburn, hormone fluctuations due to menstruation, menopause, thyroid disease or other issues, medications and other substances.
Your health professional will ask you about your sleep habits, medications, how much caffeine and alcohol you consume, and other symptoms you may have, such as pain. They may examine you to rule out underlying conditions causing your insomnia.
Short-term insomnia often gets better on its own. For chronic insomnia, your healthcare provider may recommend cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for insomnia, sleep medications and supplements, meditation, acupuncture, herbal remedies or essential oil.
Lifestyle changes and improvements to your bedtime routine and bedroom setup can help you sleep better. Avoid large meals, caffeine and alcohol before bed, be physically active during the day, outside if possible, go to bed and get up at the same time each day, including weekends, and put away smartphones, TVs, laptops or other screens at least 30 minutes before bedtime, quit smoking, unwind with soothing music or a good book.
If you have insomnia, don’t hesitate to contact your healthcare provider for help. They may offer tips for managing issues that interfere with your sleep.