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Insomnia is a sleep disorder that is characterized by difficulty falling and/or staying asleep. People with insomnia have one or more of the following symptoms:
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Waking up often during the night & having trouble going back to sleep
- Waking up too early in the morning
- Feeling tired upon waking
Types of Insomnia
There are two types of insomnia: Primary insomnia and Secondary insomnia.
Primary Insomnia: Primary insomnia means that a person is having sleep problems that are not directly associated with any other health condition or problem.
Secondary Insomnia: Secondary insomnia means that a person is having sleep problems because of something else, such as a health condition (like asthma, depression, arthritis, cancer, or heartburn); pain; medication they are taking; or a substance they are using (like alcohol).
Insomnia also varies in how long it lasts and how often it occurs. It can be short-term (acute insomnia) or can last a long time (chronic insomnia).
Causes of acute insomnia can include:
- Significant life stress (job loss or change, death of a loved one, divorce, moving).
- Emotional or physical discomfort.
- Environmental factors like noise, light, or extreme temperatures (hot or cold) that interfere with sleep.
- Some medications (for example those used to treat colds, allergies, depression, highblood pressure, and asthma) may interfere with sleep.
- Interferences in normal sleep schedule (jet lag or switching from a day to night shift, for example).
Causes of chronic insomnia include:
- Depression and/or anxiety.
- Chronic stress.
- Pain or discomfort at night.
Diagnosis: If you think you have insomnia, talk to your health care provider. An evaluation may include a physical exam, a medical history, and a sleep history. In some cases, you may be referred to a sleep center for a sleep study to be performed.
Treatment: It is important to identify or rule out medical and psychological causes before deciding on the treatment for insomnia. Attention to sleep hygiene is an important first line treatment strategy and should be tried before any pharmacological approach is considered.