What is insomnia? Insomnia causes more than simple sleeplessness. This sleep disorder can also involve frequent nighttime awakenings, waking up earlier than desired, and sleep that fails to leave people rested.
Sleepless nights and non-restorative sleep are common signs of insomnia. According to the Mayo Clinic (2010), more than one third of adults have insomnia at some point in their lives.
The causes of insomnia are often related to underlying conditions, and can range from depression to arthritis. Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea are also possible insomnia causes. Insomnia cures usually involve treating the underlying insomnia causes.
Environmental factors are also causes of insomnia. Insomnia causes may include noise, light or uncomfortable sleeping environments. Stress is another common cause of insomnia. Losing a job, relationship problems and general anxiety may make it difficult to achieve restful sleep. Prescription medications, caffeine, alcohol and cigarette smoking are also linked to insomnia.
Sleepless nights are not the only symptom of insomnia. Insomnia symptoms also include daytime sleepiness, irritability and even depression. Impaired performance at work or school often accompanies insomnia.
In addition, insomnia symptoms can include physical complaints, such as headaches and digestive problems. People experiencing insomnia symptoms have an increased risk of accidents, including falling asleep while driving. While it's difficult to determine how often insomnia causes car accidents, a study by the National Sleep Foundation (2009) found that 60 percent of Americans have driven while feeling sleepy.
Short-term insomnia caused by stress or jet lag usually resolves without treatment. Long-term or chronic insomnia, however, may only go away after getting help from a doctor.
Insomnia cures vary depending on the causes of insomnia. Often, changes to sleeping environments or lifestyle are effective insomnia cures. For instance, drinking caffeine-laden drinks within a few hours of bedtime is a common cause of insomnia symptoms. Avoiding such drinks prior to bedtime reduces the risk of insomnia. Increased exercise, a change in bedroom temperature or a relaxing nighttime routine can all help ease insomnia symptoms.
If doctors identify underlying health conditions as possible insomnia causes, treating the primary condition usually helps control the sleep disorder. Depression and anxiety disorders, for instance, are common insomnia causes, and successful treatment typically improves sleep.
Sleep medication may be used to provide relief from insomnia symptoms. However, medication for insomnia can have potentially serious side effects, including drug dependency. Generally, prescription sleep aids should only be used for a few weeks at a time, according to the Mayo Clinic (2010).
Behavioral therapy can also offer relief from insomnia symptoms. Behavioral therapy — such as relaxation techniques or cognitive therapy — changes attitudes towards sleep and helps to increase the chance of achieving a good night's sleep.
Health Scout Network. (2009). Insomnia. Retrieved August 10, 2010, from http://www.healthscout.com/ency/68/245/main.html.
Mayo Clinic. (2010). Insomnia. Retrieved August 10, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/insomnia/DS00187.
National Sleep Foundation. (2009). Drowsy driving. Retrieved September 2, 2010, from http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-topics/drowsy-driving.
Psych Central. (2010). Insomnia, primary. Retrieved August 10, 2010, from http://psychcentral.com/disorders/sx86.htm.
information on health-related topics, not medical advice, diagnosis or
treatment recommendations. Please consult your physician if you have questions