Insomnia is a sleep disorder that makes it difficult for a person to fall asleep or stay asleep. It is usually not dangerous or life-threatening, but it can affect how you function and feel and can cause fatigue and difficulty concentrating because you won’t get enough sleep even when you really want to.
The condition can be acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term) and may come and go occasionally. There are two types of insomnia: primary and secondary insomnia. The former isn’t caused by any underlying medical condition, but the latter is usually associated with some health conditions.
Many factors can lead to either primary or secondary insomnia:
- Environmental issues like noise, temperature or light.
- Jet lag or switching shifts at work.
- Stress related to events like divorce, moving, death of a loved one, job loss or change, having a baby, etc.
- Genes: insomnia runs in some families.
- Mental health issues like anxiety and depression.
- Pain or discomfort at night.
- Medications for colds, asthma, high blood pressure, allergies and depression.
- Use of illicit drugs, alcohol, tobacco or caffeine.
- PMS and menopause.
- Hyperthyroidism and other endocrine problems.
- Other sleep disorders, such as restless legs syndrome and sleep apnea.
Symptoms of Insomnia
The major symptom of this condition is lack of sleep, but it can lead to many other issues, such as:
- Low motivation or energy.
- Daytime fatigue or sleepiness.
- Tension headaches.
- Lack of focus and concentration.
- Gastrointestinal symptoms.
- Irritability, anxiety or depression.
- Lack of coordination, which leads to errors or accidents.
- Using medicine or alcohol to fall asleep.
- Difficulty socialising, working, or studying.
Acute and primary insomnia may not need treatment, but if it affects your functionality during the day, your healthcare provider will recommend a sleeping pill for a short time. However, do not use over-the-counter sleeping pills for this condition; they may have side effects.
For chronic and secondary insomnia, the condition causing it has to be treated, and you may also need behavioural therapy to help you identify and change the habits that make your condition worse.