What is insomnia?

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder, where you’ll find it difficult to fall asleep or to stay asleep. It’s a great source of frustration for millions of people that can lead to decreased energy levels, general fatigue, decreased concentration, negative moods and decreased performance in your daily life. If you are generally averaging six or fewer hours a night of sleep, and take half an hour or more to fall asleep when you get into bed, it’s possible that you might have some level of insomnia. 9 10 11

Insomnia symptoms: 1 2 6 10 11

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

  • 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)
  • On-going worries about sleep
  • Fatigue

Common causes of insomnia: 2 6 9 10 11

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

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

The negative effects of insomnia 1 2 6 7 9 11

In the short-term, insomnia can affect your performance at work or during everyday tasks that many take for granted. Even just reducing your sleep by as little as one and a half hours for one night can have a significant effect on your general alertness and effectiveness, and it can have a cumulative effect.

Tossing and turning at night can also disrupt your partner’s sleep, which can lead to stress in the relationship. Additionally, sleep deprivation can affect your memory and impair your mood and general cognitive ability.

In the long-term, an accumulated lack of sleep can seriously affect your quality of life as a whole, 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.

Treating insomnia

When to see a doctor 11

When insomnia starts affecting the quality of your life, you should consider speaking to your doctor or healthcare provider. Your doctor or healthcare provider could help determine the root cause of your sleep troubles and whether or not you have a sleep disorder that will need intervention or if your insomnia could be treated with medication.

Do you need treatment? 11

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. Sleeping is just as important to your health and general well-being as food and water, so don’t ignore the problem if you’re battling through fatigue. There is help available.

Non-pharmacological solutions include maintaining good sleeping habits, but if that doesn’t help, you can speak to your doctor or healthcare provider about other options to help restore your natural sleep rhythm. Ask your doctor how to Sleep well, Live well. 1 6 7 10