Insomnia is most frequently defined by an individual’s report of sleeping difficulties.

Insomnia is a common problem that approximately half of North American adults report experiencing at some time. Both men and women experience insomnia, although females and elderly are typically affected the most. And, despite common belief, the need for sleep does not decrease with age.

The condition is classified into three groups depending on the length that it lasts:

  • Transient insomnia is defined as lasting for a few nights
  • Intermittent is periodic episodes of insomnia
  • Chronic insomnia occurs on most nights and lasting a month or more

Although insomnia is not considered a serious medical problem, lack of sleep can seriously impact your quality of life. It can cause a person to feel tired, depressed and irritable, as well as impair their concentration. Most adults need approximately seven to nine hours of sleep to feel completely rested, although it differs for each person.

Insomnia is most often thought of as both a sign and a symptom that can accompany several sleep, medical and psychiatric disorders, characterized by persistent difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep or sleep of poor quality. Insomnia is typically followed by functional impairment while awake. Some of the most common causes of insomnia include:

Other factors that also can cause insomnia include:

  • Drinking too much caffeine throughout the day
  • Drinking alcohol before bedtime
  • Excessive napping during the day
  • Changes in your surroundings and sleep schedule
  • Noise
  • Jet lag
  • Certain medications
  • Pain from medical problems, such as arthritis

Symptoms of insomnia include:

  • Trouble falling asleep
  • Experiencing restless sleep, in which you wake frequently throughout the night and then have trouble falling back asleep
  • Waking too early in the morning
  • Feeling tired and un-refreshed upon waking in the morning

It is important to identify or rule out medical and psychological causes before deciding on the treatment for insomnia. Attention to sleep hygiene is an important first line treatment strategy and should be tried before any pharmacological approach is considered.

Treatment may include the following:

  • Sleeping pills – not recommended for long-term use
  • Relaxation therapy
  • Sleep restriction therapy
  • Reconditioning