Insomnia: Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment


What Is Insomnia?

Insomnia is a type of sleeping disorder that most people face today. It affects over 70 million Americans every year. People with insomnia find it difficult to fall asleep or even stay asleep. One may feel tired when they wake up and feel less refreshed during the day. Insomnia can drain one’s energy and affect their mood, quality of life, and work performance.

Types of Insomnia

Short-Term Insomnia

This type of insomnia or sleep disorder is also known as acute or adjustment insomnia, and it is a brief episode of having difficulty sleeping. It lasts for days or weeks as a result of the stress of traumatic events such as the loss of a loved one, a disconcerting medical diagnosis, major job or relationship change, among other factors. It can affect children and adults, but it is more common in adults. The symptoms of this insomnia may fade on their own as time passes, however, it can be persistent and result in chronic insomnia.

Chronic Insomnia

Chronic insomnia is long-term difficulty sleeping and can last for months or more if the individual has trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at least three nights per week for months. Causes of chronic insomnia can be tied down to stressful situations, irregular sleep schedules, persistent nightmares, poor sleep hygiene, mental health disorders, and other various conditions. Like short-term insomnia, this type is also common in children and adults but is more prevalent in women.

Sleep Onset Insomnia

This occurs when someone experiences difficulty sleeping at the beginning of the night. Tossing and turning around on the bed occurs. Most people with this type of insomnia find it difficult to fall asleep after spending 20-30 minutes in bed.

Sleep Maintenance Insomnia

This brings about a decrease in both sleep quantity and quality, which creates higher changes of sluggishness during the day.

Early Morning Awakening Insomnia

This involves waking up well before a person wants or plans in the morning, and this can impair their physical and mental function during the day.

Causes of Insomnia

awakeThe causes of insomnia can range from physical and psychological factors. Let’s take a quick look at some of the common causes.

  • The room is too hot, noisy, cold, or the bed is uncomfortable
  • Having nightmares
  • Using your bed for other activities can create mental associations between your bed and keep you awake.
  • Jet lag, switching shifts at work, or dealing with any other changes
  • Caring for someone in the house
  • Distractions like noise, light, or temperature
  • Making use of recreational drugs such as cocaine, caffeine, or alcohol
  • Poor physical exercises

Some Other Causes of Insomnia

In some individuals, some factors such as stress or a mental issue may contribute to insomnia. People who suffer from these conditions will have difficulty sleeping:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Schizophrenia
  • Restless leg syndrome occurs among pregnant women and individuals with Type II diabetes.
  • Nocturia, a high urine frequency that gives one the urge to visit the bathroom often at night, and is common amongst pregnant women.
  • Gastrointestinal reflux disease, also known as GERD
  • Chronic pain
  • Sleep apnea
  • COPD or Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Medications that Cause Insomnia

  • Statins
  • Beta-blockers
  • Alpha-blockers
  • Corticosteroids
  • Antidepressants
  • A combination of glucosamine and chondroitin
  • Cholinesterase inhibitors
  • Nonsedating H1 agonists

Symptoms of Insomnia

  • Poor concentration and focus
  • Depression, anxiety, and irritability
  • Fatigue during the day or sleepiness
  • Grumpiness
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms
  • Using medications or alcohol to fall asleep
  • Low motivation or energy
  • Lack of coordination which can lead to errors or accidents
  • Headaches
  • Having difficulty socializing, working, or studying

How to Diagnose Insomnia

To diagnose and treat insomnia, a sleep specialist will do the these:

  • Ask the patient about their medical history, sleep patterns, and use of drugs and alcohol
  • Conduct a physical examination
  • Test for underlying conditions
  • Request an overnight sleep test to record sleep patterns
  • Suggest that the individual wears a device that tracks movement and sleep-wake patterns

How to Treat Insomnia

Treatment is based on the cause and type of insomnia one is experiencing. Some possible treatments include:

  • Sleep hygiene education
  • Prescription medications such as sedative-hypnotic drugs, antidepressants, antihistamines, and other drugs
  • Counseling
  • Stimulus-control therapy such as going to bed when sleepy, avoiding daytime napping, and not spending more time in bed than required.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Over-the-counter sleep aids

Alternative Treatments for Insomnia

Many people never see a doctor about their insomnia and try to deal with it on their own. Despite the fact that the safety and effectiveness of many therapies have yet to be proven, some people try them anyway. Some of such therapies or medications are:


Meditation is a drug-free, natural, and simple approach to treating insomnia. A study in 2015 shows that meditation can improve the quality of your sleep and make it easier to fall and remain asleep. It can also help with the symptoms of illnesses that cause sleeplessness. Some of them include:


This over-the-counter (OTC) product claims to aid in the treatment of insomnia. Melatonin is typically deemed safe to use for a few weeks, but there is no conclusive proof that it is an effective treatment for insomnia, and its long-term safety is uncertain.


Acupuncture appears to help persons with insomnia in some cases, but further research is needed in this regard. If you want to try acupuncture in addition to your conventional treatment, talk to your doctor about where to find a trained masseur.


Although it is not thoroughly researched, this dietary supplement is sold as a sleep aid since it has a somewhat sedating effect. Also, before you attempt valerian, talk to your doctor. Some people who took high dosages or used it for a long time may have developed liver damage, though it is unclear whether valerian was the cause.

Yoga/Tai Chi

Research shows that doing yoga or tai chi on a daily basis can enhance sleep quality.

Risk Factors of Insomnia

Insomnia can strike at any age, but it is more common in women than in men. People with specific risk factors are more likely to develop insomnia. Here are some of the risk factors:

  • high stress levels
  • depression or distress caused by a life event
  • traveling to multiple time zones
  • sedentary behavior
  • pregnancy
  • being over the age of 60
  • menopause
  • alterations in working hours or night shifts

Other medical conditions such as cardiovascular diseases, obesity are also risk factors of insomnia.

Complications of Insomnia

Sleep deprivation can have a negative impact on your health. Insomnia can put you at risk of a variety of illnesses such as:

It can also lead to:

  • low libido
  • increased risk of accidents
  • poor performance at school or work
  • poor memory

Home Remedies for Insomnia

  • Establish a routine that will enable you to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
  • Be sure to keep your cellphones and other devices outside of the bedroom.
  • Ensure that your room is at a good and comfortable temperature before going to bed.
  • Avoid using any device with a screen right before bed.
  • Use blinds and curtains that will help darken the room and reduce sun rays from penetrating.
  • Take a bath before bedtime.

Now that you Know…

Insomnia is a common problem that affects a number of people. It can result from a range of issues that may affect one’s physical or mental health. It can also be due to change in environment or lifestyle. Lack of sleep can leave one tired and less active during the day. If you have the symptoms of this condition or are suffering from it already, contact your health physician to determine the severity of your symptoms and also recommend the right solutions to deal with it.