Insomnia is the most common sleep complaint and affects as many as 30% of adults. The causes, symptoms, and severity vary from person to person.


Symptoms include difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep throughout the night, waking up too early in the morning, and poor quality of sleep, or feeling tired in the morning. It is more common in older adults, women, people under stress, and people with certain medical and health problems such as depression.


There are two types of insomnia based on duration. Acute insomnia lasts for a short time—from a few nights up to three weeks—and goes away on its own without treatment. Chronic insomnia lasts more than three weeks and nearly 1 in 10 people have chronic insomnia, which often requires treatment. Insomnia is also evaluated according to time—sleep onset insomnia vs. sleep maintenance insomnia.


Insomnia is most often associated with something else. These factors may include:


Stress: This can vary from minor things like work or personal stress to more severe changes such as death, divorce, or job loss.


Other Sleep Disorders: Some sleep disorders can cause insomnia or make it worse such as sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome.


Medical Conditions: Many physical illnesses can cause insomnia. Those who experience pain, discomfort, or limited mobility from medical problems may have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.


Mental Health Disorders: The relationship between sleep and mental health is complex. Insomnia is sometimes caused by a mental health disorder. Often a mental health disorder such as depression or other mood disorders will be diagnosed after a complaint of insomnia.


Medication or Substance Abuse: Insomnia can be an unwanted side effect of many prescription or over-the-counter medications. Alcohol and sleep aids are also common causes of insomnia. Finally, caffeine and other stimulants can delay sleep onset and may cause frequent awakenings at night.


Environmental Factors: Disruptive factors such as noise, light or extreme temperatures can interfere with sleep. Bed partners who are loud snorers and pets can cause sleep disruption. Irregular sleep schedules can also cause insomnia.


Treatment options for insomnia depend on the underlying cause. Sleep hygiene, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) including stress reduction, relaxation, and sleep schedule management and finally medications may be effective treatment options for insomnia.


One of the first steps in improving overall health & well being is to promote thorough sleep evaluations ruling out a sleep disorder.



UAB Medical West Sleep Disorders Center

Professional Building - Suite 304

Bessemer, AL 35022