You’ve probably had nights when you couldn’t fall asleep, no matter how desperately you tried.
When you can’t sleep, the ticking of the clock only reminds you of your exhaustion and the endless hours until morning. Then, you finally drop off around dawn, only to be jarred awake by the alarm an hour later.
Insomnia, the term for having trouble sleeping at night, is one of the most common sleep complaints. About 1 in 3 adults has bouts of insomnia that last a few days at a time known as acute insomnia. But 1 in 10 adults suffers ongoing difficulty sleeping, known as chronic insomnia. There are many different definitions for chronic insomnia, but a commonly accepted one is insomnia that occurs more than 3 nights a week for at least 3 months.
Insomnia affects people in different ways. If you suffer from it, you may not be able to go to sleep. Or, you may not be able to stay asleep. You might constantly wake up earlier than you would like, perhaps in the wee hours of the morning, and find yourself unable to go back to sleep.
Insomnia has many possible causes. The reasons you’re lying awake when you don’t want to be are individual. They can include any or all of these:
- Medications that interfere with sleep
- Dietary choices, such as caffeine late in the day, that interfere with sleep
- Stressful thoughts
- Recent upheavals in your life, such as a divorce or death of a loved one
- Hormone changes, such as those accompanying menopause
- Bedtime habits that don’t lead to restful sleep
- Sleep disorders
- Chronic pain
- Medical conditions such as acid reflux, thyroid problems, stroke, or asthma
- Substances like alcohol and nicotine
- Travel, especially between time zones
If you think you are suffering from insomnia, you should speak to your doctor who can prescribe a treatment that is tailored to your need. Some treatment options include:
- Medications to help you get to sleep and stay asleep
- Change in existing medication if that’s what’s causing the problem
- Counseling to help relieve stress and other issues bothering you
- Change in lifestyle choices that may interfere with sleep
- Better-sleep bedtime habits, called “sleep hygiene”
To get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider, be sure you consider the following tips:
- Know the reason for your visit and what you want to happen.
- Before your visit, write down questions you want answered.
- Bring someone with you to help you ask questions and remember what your provider tells you.
- At the visit, write down the name of a new diagnosis, and any new medicines, treatments, or tests. Also write down any new instructions your provider gives you.
- Know why a new medicine or treatment is prescribed, and how it will help you. Also know what the side effects are.
- Ask if your condition can be treated in other ways.
- Know why a test or procedure is recommended and what the results could mean.
- Know what to expect if you do not take the medicine or have the test or procedure.
- If you have a follow-up appointment, write down the date, time, and purpose for that visit.
- Know how you can contact your provider if you have questions.