What is Insomnia

What is Insomnia

6 October, 2011

What is Insomnia

Insomnia is a very common disorder in which someone has trouble falling and/or staying asleep. It is estimated that 1 in 3 people have some form of insomnia at some point in their lives. It can have a very disruptive effect on one’s daily habits, as a lack of sleep can cause poor performance at work and irritability that strains personal relationships, and it is one of the major causes of depression.

So what is insomnia?

This sleeping disorder can be considered either chronic (regularly occurring) or acute (short-term). Chronic insomnia is defined as having symptoms at least three nights a week for more than a month, while acute insomnia is more sporadic.

What is Insomnia?: Types of Insomnia

There are two categories of insomnia: primary insomnia and secondary insomnia. Primary insomnia is when a person is having sleep problems that are not directly associated with any other health condition or problem. Secondary insomnia occurs when sleep problems are the result of some other health condition, pain, prescribed medication or a substance a person is using.

Clearly, the determination of causality for insomnia is essential to a proper diagnosis and treatment. Secondary insomnia is the more common of the two types, as more than 8 out of 10 people who have insomnia are believed to have it.

What is insomnia:  What are the most likely causes?

The causes of insomnia may originate from a variety of places. Some of these include:

  • Significant life stress (job loss or change, death of a loved one, divorce, moving)
  • Depression and/or anxiety
  • Environmental factors like noise, light or extreme temperatures (hot or cold)
  • Commonly prescribed medications (for example those used to treat colds, allergies, depression, high blood pressure and asthma)
  • Caffeine and other stimulants
  • Tobacco or other nicotine products
  • Alcohol or other sedatives
  • Emotional disorders such as depression, anxiety and PTSD
  • Neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease
  • Conditions that cause chronic pain, such as arthritis and headache disorders
  • Menopause and hot flashes


What is insomnia and its treatment?

Once a person experiences insomnia, it is important to identify the underlying causes of the disorder before selecting a method of treatment. Secondary insomnia, in particular, is often resolved or improved without treatment. In these cases, once the source of insomnia is identified, the problem can be corrected soon after it starts. For example, if caffeine is causing your insomnia, stopping or limiting your consumption may eradicate the symptoms. Recognizing the factors listed above that may interfere with sleep is an important first step in receiving treatment for what is insomnia.

Other methods of treating insomnia include:

  • Stimulus control therapy is an option for patients that have conditioned themselves to associate their bed, or sleep in general, with a negative response. As part of treatment, different aspects of the sleep process, such as bedtime or removing TVs and reading from bedroom, are altered.
  •  Cognitive behavioral therapy: As part of this therapy, patients are taught improved sleep habits and relieved of counter-productive assumptions about sleep. The primary goal of this type of treatment is to remove anxiety from the sleep process.
  • Prescription drugs: There are a variety of prescription drugs that have been shown to treat insomnia available through a physician.
  • Article content, © Kira Stein, MD, APC. | West Coast Life Center

The content on this webpage is for general information only and is not intended to be professional medical, legal, or other advice for any specific situation or individual. It is intended that individuals and their families will find this information useful when discussing issues and consulting with a qualified health professional.

Kira Stein, MD, APC are not responsible for links to external web pages or sites that have changed or present inaccurate information at the time of review. Information and links found on this site are intended to help educate patients about psychiatric conditions and treatments and in no way should be construed as treatment directions or recommendations for any individual person.

Kira Stein, MD, APC do not warrant or make any representations, and disclaims any and all liability, concerning any treatment or action by any individual who has consulted the materials provided on this internet webpage or any links to this webpage.

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