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Insomnia describes difficulty in getting to sleep or staying asleep for long enough to feel refreshed, even though you've had enough opportunity to sleep. Symptoms of insomnia include:
• difficulty falling asleep
• waking up in the night
• waking up early in the morning
• feeling irritable and tired and finding it difficult to function during the day
There are a large range of factors that can cause insomnia, including stress and worry, psychiatric issues, physical conditions and external factors such as drugs or medications. Stress is a common cause of insomnia; stressful events often cause the initial bout of insomnia, which continues even after the stress is resolved. This is due to a learned association of the sleeping environment with a feeling of alertness.
Psychiatric issues such as depression, anxiety disorders or bipolar disorder can also cause insomnia in some people. Psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia have also been known to cause insomnia. There are a number of physical conditions that can cause insomnia. Heart and respiratory disease can make sleeping difficult, as can neurological diseases like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease. Chronic pain and discomfort caused by conditions such as arthritis can also cause insomnia.
Insomnia can also be caused by external factors like drug or substance misuse. Antidepressants, epilepsy medication and medicine to treat asthma are other known causes.
When treating insomnia the first step is to find out whether it is being caused by an underlying medical condition.
Your doctor will advise you on good sleep hygiene - guidelines to improve your chance of getting a good night’s sleep.
They may also recommend cognitive and behavioural treatments that help change any unhelpful habits or behaviours that can cause insomnia.
These might include techniques to relax or stimuli to help you fall asleep and keep you asleep throughout the night.
In some cases doctor will prescribe sleeping tablets.
Although these can help you get some rest, they do not treat the underlying causes of insomnia and can be addictive and ineffective if used long-term.
NHS - Insomnia [online] Available at: [Accessed 19 April 2012].
10731 Revised November 2012comments powered by Disqus