What is Insomnia and How Can You Overcome It?

Eli Ben-Yehuda

Written by Eli Ben-Yehuda

On October 30, 2019
What Is Insomnia?

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder defined by night time and daytime symptoms. Night time symptoms include persistent difficulties falling and/or staying asleep and/or non-restorative sleep.

Daytime symptoms of insomnia can include diminished sense of well being, compromised functioning such as difficulties with concentration and memory, fatigue, concerns and worries about sleep. The diagnosis is made when the symptoms persist for at least 1 month and insomnia is considered chronic if it persists for at least 6 months. Nearly one in 10 adults in the United States suffers from insomnia.

It is important to realize that not everyone who has problems sleeping has insomnia. The word persistent is emphasized because many people occasionally experience disturbed sleep at night but their problem is transient.

About 75 percent of people with insomnia can identify a specific cause of their insomnia. One of the most common causes is stress related to family or work situations. Poor sleep is a common reaction to stress, but there are large individual differences in how people react to and cope with stress. These differences likely play a role in the development of insomnia.

Other Causes of Insomnia:

Insomnia can be caused by physical and psychological factors. There is sometimes an underlying medical condition that causes chronic insomnia, while transient insomnia may be due to a recent event or occurrence. Insomnia is commonly caused by:

  • Disruptions in circadian rhythm – jet lag, job shift changes, high altitudes, environmental noise, extreme heat or cold.
  • Psychological issues – bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety disorders, or psychotic disorders.
  • Medical conditions – chronic pain, chronic fatigue syndrome, congestive heart failure, angina, acid-reflux disease (GERD), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, sleep apnea, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, hyperthyroidism, arthritis, brain lesions, tumors, stroke.
  • Hormones – estrogen, hormone shifts during menstruation.
  • Other factors – sleeping next to a snoring partner, parasites, genetic conditions, overactive mind, pregnancy.
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How to Treat Insomnia:

Getting ready for bed means more than turning down the sheets. Sleep experts know that there are many things that affect how well you sleep. Behavior and lifestyle changes improve overall sleep quality and the time it takes to fall asleep-without the side effects of sleep medicines. Perhaps most important, these improvements last over time.

To improve your sleep, here are some things you can try:
More Tips You Can Try
  • Choose a healthier way of thinking.
  • Healthy thinking is a way to help you stay well or cope with a health problem by changing how you think. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a type of counseling that can help you understand why you have sleep problems and can show you how to deal with them. Cognitive-behavioral therapy helps reduce interrupted sleep over time.
  • Lifestyle changes are simple things you can do that may help you sleep better. These include changing your sleep area or schedule, watching what and when you eat and drink, and being more active. It’s also important to keep regular bedtimes and wake times-7 days a week and to try to avoid taking naps during the day.

A short-lived bout of insomnia is generally nothing to worry about. The bigger concern is chronic sleep loss, which can contribute to health problems such as weight gain, high blood pressure, and a decrease in the immune system’s power. If you are having trouble sleeping please speak with your healthcare provider to see what he/she suggests to remedy the situation.

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2 Replies to “What is Insomnia and How Can You Overcome It?”

  1. Eli, I’ve struggled with insomnia for many years. Two fixes that have really helped are blackout curtains and a series of relaxation audiobooks on hoopla called Guided Imagery by Max Highstein.

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