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Insomnia is the difficulty or inability to fall to sleep or maintain sleep. There are varying levels of insomnia that range from transient to short-term to chronic. Transient insomnia lasts up to a few days and is associated with stress or excitement. An upcoming meeting, event, or travel may cause this anxiety and type of insomnia. Once the situation has passed, then the insomnia usually subsides. Short-term insomnia lasts longer by a few weeks and may also be attributed to ongoing anxiety or stress. Again, once this stress is relieved, so is the insomnia, and sleep returns to normal. The most severe type is chronic insomnia, which lasts from months to years. This sleep disorder can cause daytime fatigue, irritability, or impair daily function.

Who gets insomnia?

Transient and short-term insomnia may affect everyone at some point in his or her life. It has been estimated that over 35 million Americans complain of chronic insomnia. Insomnia can affect men and women of all ages.

What is the cause and treatment?

Insomnia is a result of another underlying problem or disorder. This underlying problem must first be managed and treated for there to be an improvement or elimination of insomnia. These factors include:

  • Psychiatric problems
  • Excessive ongoing stress
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol: Although alcohol may facilitate falling to sleep, it disrupts the sleep cycle throughout the night by causing multiple fragmentations and early awakenings
  • Poor sleep hygiene
  • Medications: Some medications contain stimulants that make it difficult to fall to sleep. There are some over the counter medications that contain stimulants. Review medication ingredients thoroughly. Overuse or abuse of sedatives can have an adverse reaction on sleep over time. Consult a Physician for questions regarding any medications that you may take.
  • Extreme discomfort or pain
  • Other sleep disorders
  • Sleep apnea

An evaluation by your Physician is necessary to determine the severity of insomnia and the best plan of action to treat the problem(s). A visit to the sleep laboratory might be necessary depending upon your Physicians consultation. The procedure used to test insomnia is the Polysomnogram (PSG). The PSG involves spending the night at the sleep lab while having several different aspects of your sleep recorded and analyzed. A Physician will review the study once it is completed.

Where can I find more information on insomnia?

American Sleep Disorders Association

6301 Bandel Road #101
Rochester, MN 55901

Narcolepsy Network

277 Fairfield Road #310 B
Fairfield, NJ 07004
(973) 276-0115

National Sleep Foundation

729 Fifteenth Street NW
Fourth Floor
Washington, DC 20005