Insomnia FAQs: Common Questions About Sleep Disturbance

Insomnia is seriously under-diagnosed, misunderstood and untreated. Why? Who wants to go to the trouble to schedule a visit with their doctor, carve out the time for an appointment, and pay the expense associated with the visit and any prescription they get all for a few nights of missed sleep? Sound familiar?

Late Night Coffee.

What you don’t know may be harmful to your health. Find out right now if insomnia is more than just missing a few winks.

What is insomnia?

Insomnia is usually a symptom, typically secondary to something else. It is best characterized as the inability to fall asleep, stay asleep, or waking too early in the morning. These types of sleep disruptions are often indicators of other medical or psychological problems, such as sleep disorders or depression and anxiety.

What causes insomnia and what symptoms should I look for?

Insomnia is thought to be symptomatic of other things. For instance, many psychiatrists have long noted a strong connection between depression sufferers and insomnia symptoms to the point that they believe insomnia is a symptom of depression and anxiety. But insomnia can also be caused by poor sleep hygiene or lifestyle habits and practices surrounding bedtime—you might not have a set bedtime, or keep the TV on while you’re trying to sleep. You may drink a cup of coffee or a diet caffeinated soda too close to bedtime, or you might just be going through a spell of work-related stress that ‘s keeping you awake. Symptoms to be on the look-out for include: fatigue during awake hours, problems concentrating, irritability, lack of concentration, mood swings, and possible lack of good coordination.

How long does insomnia last?

Insomnia can be short-term, even one night—called transient insomnia, or it could be long-term or chronic. Some people live with insomnia for years, passing it off as their “normal” sleep pattern. Most adults require between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night. This can drop slightly as you age, but 3 hours of sleep is abnormal.

Is insomnia treatable?

Insomnia treatments are available. Problem is that since insomnia is a big sign of some other problem your physician’s overall goal is to diagnose the primary cause for your insomnia before he or she can provide treatment for the insomnia or secondary sleep disturbance. However, treatments can include: prescription sleep aids, non-prescription or over-the-counter sleep aids, sleep hygiene, alternative therapies, or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

Do I have to see a doctor for this?

Brief bouts of insomnia happen to most adults for one reason or another—relationship problems, pulling an all-nighter, PMS can cause a monthly bout, stress at work, -- all of which usually resolve themselves. Long-term insomnia that affects your daily life should be brought to the attention of your doctor. Remember, insomnia is a secondary symptom of something else going on physically or mentally. Here is a self assessment quiz to help you to evaluate your situation.

Can insomnia be life-threatening?

If insomnia is a secondary symptom to obstructive, central or complex sleep apnea, then yes it can be life-threatening. The insomnia itself is not the problem, but the root cause of the insomnia is dangerous.

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