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Insomnia: Symptoms, Causes, And Tips For A Good Night's Sleep

Updated: Sep 27, 2022

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder, affecting between 10% and 40% of the adult population. It causes difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. This can lead to feelings of tiredness or fatigue during the day, which can hurt your quality of life.

What Is Insomnia?

The two most common types of insomnia are acute and chronic. Acute insomnia is when you don't sleep well for a specific period—it may be due to a stressful situation or another illness. Chronic insomnia lasts more than three weeks and can be caused by factors such as depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, or medications.

In the U.S., it's estimated that 27% percent of adults have experienced at least one month of difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep in the past year (American Academy of Sleep Medicine).

What Causes Insomnia?

The potential causes of insomnia are many and varied. These include:

  • Stress

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Sleep disorders, such as restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea, or narcolepsy (for example)

  • Medications that cause drowsiness and promote sleepiness, such as sleeping pills or medicines used to treat high blood pressure (antihypertensives)

What Are The Symptoms Of Insomnia?

If you're having trouble sleeping, you may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty falling asleep. It takes you a long time to fall asleep, or you wake up during the night and have trouble getting back to sleep.

  • Difficulty staying asleep. You repeatedly awaken during the night and have difficulty falling back asleep.

  • Waking up too early. You wake up earlier than desired, feeling tired and unrested even though you had enough sleep (or more than enough sleep). This can occur as often as once every three nights or less often than every third night. If this happens frequently, it can affect daytime functioning; if it occurs rarely, it doesn't usually cause significant impairment in everyday life activities such as work performance or social interactions.

How Do I Know If I Have Insomnia?

If you have any of the following symptoms, you're likely experiencing insomnia:

  • Difficulty falling asleep

  • Difficulty staying asleep or waking up too early.

  • Wake up feeling unrefreshed

  • Daytime drowsiness (falling asleep while driving or at work) can significantly affect your quality of life. If this sounds like you, don't worry! There are many effective treatments available to help.

How Long Does Insomnia Last?

While insomnia is a common condition, the duration of time it lasts for each person can vary greatly. Some people may have just a few nights of poor sleep without lasting effects, while others may struggle with insomnia for months or even years.

The average duration of insomnia is 3-4 weeks (although some cases could last as long as 6 months), and most people who experience it will get better after some form of treatment has been provided. However, if you do not receive treatment for your symptoms soon enough or at all, your condition might become chronic and be challenging to treat.

When Should I See A Doctor About My Insomnia?

If you have had trouble sleeping for more than a week, it may be time to see a doctor. The same can be said for two weeks of sleeplessness and three weeks of poor sleep. If your insomnia lasts longer than this and you have other health issues, such as depression or chronic pain, I highly recommend seeking professional help sooner rather than later.

How Is Insomnia Treated?

If you suffer from insomnia, there are many things you can do to improve your sleep. Some simple changes to your daily routine can help you get a better night's rest.

Try these tips if you have trouble falling asleep when you think about it:

  • Eliminate caffeine from your diet two hours before bedtime. Caffeine is a stimulant that keeps people awake and may interfere with their ability to fall asleep or stay asleep through the night.

  • Avoid nicotine (cigarettes, cigars) or other tobacco products within six hours of bedtime because nicotine is another stimulant that may interfere with getting enough restful sleep at night. If possible, stop using tobacco altogether for the best results in improving overall health and well-being.* Don't drink too much alcohol before bedtime—having more than one alcoholic drink daily makes it harder for some people to fall asleep at night.* Watch TV shows after 9 pm* Try reading before going to bed instead of watching TV shows; this helps calm your mind and body, so they're ready for sleep when the time comes.* Avoid exercising within three hours before bed since exercise can make some people alert rather than sleepy afterward (like caffeine does).

What Are the Most Effective Tips for Sleeping Well and Beating This Common Sleep Disorder?

  • Try to get to sleep at the same time every night.

  • Try to keep a regular sleep schedule on weekends, if possible.

  • Get the same amount of sleep every night, even if you have a slightly shorter or longer than usual period awake during the day. The quality of your sleep is more important than how much time you spend asleep, so don't try to make up for lost hours by sleeping an extra hour during the week or waking up earlier on weekends and taking naps to catch up on lost hours from working late nights.

  • Avoid napping as much as possible during the day—nap too close before bedtime, and you may have trouble falling asleep later at night. If you're feeling drowsy while driving or at work, take a short walk outside instead! It's okay if your body needs rest; just don't go back to bed after waking up unless it's been 20 minutes or longer since falling asleep (in other words: no snoozing allowed!).

If you're having trouble getting to sleep, keep your mind occupied until it's time for bed. If you have something else planned for the evening and know that you'll be too busy to worry about work (or anything else), then by all means, go ahead and do it! Stay away from devices like computers or smartphones while still on—it's hard not to get distracted when they're right there in front of us!

To treat insomnia, you need to address the underlying cause.

To treat insomnia, you need to address the underlying cause. Some people have tried to treat their insomnia with sleeping pills that only mask symptoms and don't resolve underlying causes. In other words: if you're taking a drug to help you get to sleep, but it's not helping your sleep quality, then your insomnia is probably caused by something else! That said, there are some common medications used for treating insomnia, like benzodiazepines (like Xanax) or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). But these drugs aren't suitable for everyone and may not be appropriate according to your medical history or lifestyle choices.

If medical treatment isn't right for you, plenty of other options exist! Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been shown in studies across different countries as being effective at improving sleep quality over long periods—and even lowering rates of depression and anxiety too! Sleep hygiene is another option worth trying; this refers to habits that promote healthy, restful nights, such as limiting screen time during bedtime hours or getting outside during daylight hours so you can wake up naturally without an alarm clock buzzing away every morning at 6 am no matter what season it might be outside our bedroom windows! Finally, relaxation techniques such as yoga Nidra meditation can also help bring calmness into our lives which will ultimately lead us towards better restful nights each night before we go into those lovely dreamy landscapes where unicorns roam free once again after years upon years spent underground hiding from hunters who seek them out solely because they want one for themselves so they can ride around town being seen riding atop one--ahem!"


When trying to treat insomnia, it's important to remember that your efforts won't pay off unless you address the underlying cause of your insomnia. If you can do this, then there are many steps you can take to improve your sleep—from lifestyle changes like eating better and exercising more often to cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

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