Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that will most likely occur at some point in your lifetime. It is marked by difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up early and not falling back asleep. Lack of sleep impacts multiple facets of life and can lead to chronic medical conditions if not addressed. Acute insomnia can last for days to weeks, and chronic insomnia can set in and last for years. It can be attributed to a medication, a medical condition, or it can occur without an underlying ailment.

Symptoms and Causes

 In addition to the symptoms mentioned above, insomnia can lead to daytime sleepiness, irritability, difficulty paying attention, moodiness, and decreased productivity at work and home. Stress, diet, and abnormal sleep habits can cause insomnia. Caffeine or nicotine could exacerbate the issue, and unusual sleep habits could be attributed to personal preference, work schedule, or travel schedule. However, sometimes insomnia can occur due to chronic medical conditions like cancer, chronic pain, asthma, dementia, Alzheimer’s, or hyperthyroidism. Medications and mental health conditions can also cause sleep difficulties.

Risk Factors and Complications

 If you are a woman, over the age of 60, or have a stressful work or home situation, you are more prone to insomnia. As humans age, changes in sleep patterns, activity, and medications increase the risk. Prevention methods include limiting or reducing napping, reducing the amount of food consumed close to bedtime, increasing exercise, and keeping your bedtime routine consistent. However, if these methods do not work, it is time to consult with a physician.

Diagnosis and Treatment

 Diagnosis can usually be completed during an in-office visit with a physician. A complete physical exam will be completed, and discussion of symptoms and sleep habits will occur.  However, a sleep study may be recommended by the physician to rule out other conditions. Medications should be the last resort, and most drugs to treat insomnia should not be taken long term. There are a few medications, such as Lunesta or Ambien, that are safe to take for extended periods. There are also over-the-counter sleep medications available if preferred over powerful prescription drugs.