What is insomnia?

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder where you’ll find it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep.1 You may still feel tired when you wake up, as insomnia can lead to decreased energy levels, general fatigue, decreased concentration, negative moods, and decreased performance in your daily life.1 Most adults need 7-8 hours of sleep a night.1 2 If you find that your sleep is disturbed at least three times a week and that the quality of your sleep is affecting your daily functioning, you may be experiencing insomnia.1 2

Insomnia symptoms:

These are some, but not all, the symptoms you might experience when you are suffering from insomnia:2

  • Difficulty falling asleep at night
  • Waking up during the night
  • Waking up too early
  • Not feeling well-rested after a night’s sleep
  • Daytime tiredness or sleepiness
  • Irritability, depression, or anxiety
  • Difficulty paying attention, focussing on tasks, or remembering
  • Increased errors or accidents
  • Tension headaches
  • Distress in the stomach and intestines (gastrointestinal tract)
  • Ongoing worries about sleep
  • Fatigue

Common causes of insomnia:

These are some, but not all, of the factors that may lead to you experiencing trouble with sleeping:1

  • Mental disorders like high levels of stress, anxiety, or depression
  • Working night shifts, having irregular sleeping hours, or travelling a lot through different time zones
  • Change in work environment or work schedule
  • Medical conditions affecting your breathing or causing pain
  • A lack of physical activity or exercise
  • Certain medications
  • Overall poor sleeping habits (See section on Sleep Hygiene for more)
  • Other sleep disorders (for more information on sleep disorders, please consult your doctor or healthcare provider)

If you are a woman, the hormonal changes your body goes through could affect your sleep, and many pregnant women are affected by sleeping difficulties, whereas menopausal women often can’t sleep because of hot flashes.1 Furthermore, if you are over the age of 60, you may suffer from insomnia due to the decrease in melatonin in your body and the changes in your health and sleep patterns.1

The negative effects of insomnia

Insomnia can affect your performance at work or during everyday tasks.1 Studies have shown that cognitive performance and vigilant attention begin to decline fairly quickly after more than 16 hours of continuous wakefulness and that sleep deficits from partial sleep deprivation can accumulate over time, resulting in a steady deterioration in alertness.3

Tossing and turning at night can also disrupt your partner’s sleep.4 Additionally, sleep deprivation can affect your memory and impair your mood and general cognitive ability.2

In the long-term, insomnia can seriously affect your quality of life, making you less capable of engaging in social situations, adding to bouts of depression and even affecting your ability to drive or operate machinery, which could lead to personal injury.2 5

Treating insomnia

When to see a doctor

When insomnia starts affecting the quality of your life, you should consider speaking to your doctor or healthcare provider.1 Your doctor or healthcare provider could help determine the root cause of your sleep troubles and whether or not you have a sleep disorder.1 If your doctor finds that to be the case, then they may suggest several interventions or even medication to help treat your insomnia.1

Do you need treatment?

Don’t ignore the problem if you’re battling fatigue. There is help available, and you can as your doctor how to Sleep well, Live well.

If you suffer from any of the symptoms mentioned on this site, consider consulting your doctor or healthcare provider to find out about treatments and solutions that might help. Changing your sleep habits and addressing any issues possibly associated with insomnia, such as stress, medical conditions or medications, can restore restful sleep for many people.6 If these measures don’t work, your doctor may recommend non-pharmacological interventions, like cognitive behavioural therapy, or pharmacological interventions, like certain medications.6

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