Insomnia is a sleep disorder. It is trouble falling asleep, waking in the middle of the night or waking very early in the morning. Insomnia may also be a sleep that is not restful.

Insomnia is often a short term problem. If it last more than 4 weeks it is considered chronic insomnia.


Insomnia can occur for many reasons. Short term insomnia is often caused by temporary situations or problems with the environment. They may include:

  • A life crisis or stress, including the loss of a life partner, divorce, or loss of a job
  • Environmental noise
  • Extreme temperatures such as a room that is too hot or too cold
  • Change in the surrounding environment
  • Sleep/wake schedule problems, such as those due to jet lag

There may be no clear reason for chronic insomnia. It may also be due to other medical or psychiatric conditions. Examples of these conditions that can lead to sleep problems include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Arthritis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Heart disease
  • Asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Sleep apnea
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or ulcer

Both chronic and short term insomnia may be due to

  • Behavioral factors, including:
    • Misuse of caffeine, alcohol, smoking cigarettes, or other substances
    • Disrupted sleep/wake cycles from shift work or other nighttime activities
    • Chronic stress
    • Excessive napping in the afternoon or evening
  • Medicines such as:
    • Certain allergy medicines
    • Certain asthma medicines
    • Some Blood pressure medicines
    • Psychiatric medicines

Home CareĀ 

There are steps you can take to improve your chance of a good night’s rest. Your doctor may ask you to reduce intake of certain items or avoid them all together to see if your sleep improves. You may be asked to:

  • Reduce or avoid caffeine especially late in the day
  • Reduce or avoid alcohol and drug use.
  • Quit smoking. If you smoke, avoid doing so near bedtime.
  • Avoid eating or drinking close to bedtime.
  • Exercise regularly. However do not exercise within three hours before going to bed.

Your sleep habits can also affect how well you sleep. Steps that may help you sleep better include:

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
  • If you must take naps, keep them short.
  • Only use the bedroom for sleep or sex. Avoid watching TV or worrying in bed.
  • Keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature and dark. Minimize disruptions such as pets.
  • If you work at night and sleep during the day, make sure to block daylight from the room. Decrease the amount of noise. Use a fan to block out noise.

When Should I Call My Doctor?

Call your doctor if you are having frequent insomnia. Let your doctor know if the insomnia is making it hard for you to do your daily activities.


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