Insomnia: Causes and Ways to Treat

Counting sheep or taking over-the-counter pills? Neither, say researchers. Dealing with insomnia can be challenging, and using drugs you were not prescribed is not a good idea. What are insomnia risk factors? How can one get rid of the problem and back to quiet sleeping? Let’s try to find it out.

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The notion of insomnia includes not only being unable to go to sleep, but also waking up in the middle of the night once or several times, failing to wake up at the right time (something makes you wake up earlier and prevents you from falling asleep again), and not feeling well after waking up – those who suffer from insomnia often report being unable to have a good night’s sleep. Even if you can go to sleep at a certain time, but still experience issues which disrupt your sleep, you may require treatment.

Among the symptoms which can give you a hint that there is something wrong with your sleep are drowsiness during the day, feeling fatigue upon waking up, learning and concentrating difficulties, poor performance, irritability, etc.

Despite being a disorder that affects both genders and all ages and races, insomnia tends to attack women more often than men. The underlying physiological processes are not yet identified, but there is no doubt that there are several risk factors which have something to do with the problem.
Insomnia can be of two types: either acute or chronic. The former can persist from several days to 60 days or so, whereas the latter keeps on haunting you for months or years.

The acute form of the disorder is oftentimes caused by the following:

  • Stress/anxiety. Your work, family issues, problems at school and other things can trigger insomnia, which will come as a result of anxiety interfering with your sleep.
  • Medication. Some pills are capable of depriving you of sleep. Make sure you read the list of possible side effects to be ready for it.
  • Traumatic event. If a traumatic event happens, it will result in even greater stress.
  • Injuries/surgery. Pain can also be one of the factors that contribute to insomnia development, and injuries or surgical interventions are among the things characterized by pain, which can be intense and disrupt your sleep.
  • Environmental factors and schedule disruption (moving to another country, etc.).

Chronic insomnia can be caused either by the above mentioned things or by other factors, such as substance/alcohol abuse, depression, etc. Insomnia can be considered chronic if it attacks you no less than 3 times a week, and this disorder persists for at least 3 months.

Ways to manage insomnia

If insomnia is not treated, it can become another risk factor of such diseases and disorders as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cognitive issues, etc. The longer your sleep remains disrupted, the more it affects your health. That is why consulting your GP is a must if you cannot have a good night’s sleep.

Here is a guide to win the war over insomnia:

  • Step 1. If your sleep problems are triggered by a temporary cause, you may try the waiting strategy. If the problem does not go away when the triggering issue is resolved, you should consider the next advice.
  • Step 2. Do not use over-the-counter medicines even if your friend or relative recommends it. Such drugs can prove to be useless in your particular case but bring side effects that will aggravate the situation. Instead, evaluate your sleep hygiene: make sure the environment for sleeping is appropriate (it should be dark in there, with no unnecessary noise; do not forget to let fresh air get into your bedroom!), stick to a regular sleeping schedule, and avoid caffeine-rich drinks and other stimulants.
  • Step 3. If all the above mentioned strategies fail, do not hesitate to consult your GP.  According to the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center specialists, the most effective treatment of insomnia medicine can offer is cognitive behavior therapy. It can be a combination of drugs and CBT, or CBT only.

There is nothing to be ashamed of if you suffer from insomnia, and telling your GP about the risk factors you experience can help find a solution faster. Even if your sleep is not that bad and does not seem to be affected by insomnia, do not ignore the above mentioned advice: sleep hygiene matters!


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