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Insomnia is the medical term used for the condition in which you have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Sleep is an important factor for the proper health and functioning of your body. On average, every adult requires 7 – 8 hours of peaceful sleep, although it may vary. If you develop insomnia, you may find it hard to fall asleep or the quality of your sleep is disturbed. This can have multiple effects on your physical and mental health. Short-term insomnia is common and gets better within a few days. Chronic insomnia can persist for months to years and requires medical attention to be treated. 


Insomnia can occur due to a variety of factors. One of the strongest links of insomnia is with your mental health. If you have gone through a traumatic or sorrowful experience, it may keep you up at night. The stress of school, work, family, or relationships can also make it difficult to fall asleep. Insomnia is also linked with depression and anxiety disorders.

Irregular bedtime schedule is another rising cause of insomnia. This is linked with the increased use of mobile phones and other gadgets. The use of these gadgets forces your brain to stay alert and prevent falling into the natural sleep cycle. An irregular sleep schedule can also develop due to traveling or unmanageable work hours.

Hormonal changes during menses, pregnancy, and menopause can also lead to insomnia. Acute or chronic medical conditions that cause pain or discomfort can make falling and staying asleep difficult. Other medical conditions that disrupt sleep include obstructive sleep apnea, gastroesophageal reflux disease, diabetes, heart disease, restless leg syndrome, etc. Insomnia can also be caused as a result of certain medications, drugs, or caffeine use. 

Risk Factors And Epidemiology

Insomnia can affect people of all ages, but it is frequently observed in older people over the age of 60. This is because the aging process affects mental, physical, and hormonal health differently. Research also indicates that insomnia is more predominant among females than males. It may or may not be associated with hormonal changes. Apart from physical factors, psychological factors such as stress, anxiety, depression, or another disorder can increase the risk of insomnia. Irregular academic or work schedules can also limit the duration of quality sleep. If your job requires frequent traveling, you may develop insomnia as your body tries to set to a new biological clock.


About 10-20% of people from the global population suffer from insomnia. This percentage has been rising over recent years due to technological advancement, increased workload, and a higher number of mental health issues. 

Signs And Symptoms

The major signs and symptoms of insomnia include difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up frequently during sleep. You may experience restlessness during the entire night. This is followed by waking up too early or not feeling rested enough. This can also cause fatigue, tiredness, frustration, sluggishness, and a low concentration level during awake hours. You can have a hard time studying or doing professional tasks. Persistent insomnia can also cause mood changes and may increase the level of stress or depression


The diagnosis of insomnia begins with a detailed history of your symptoms and sleep pattern. Your doctor will ask questions about a preexisting medical condition, psychological condition, travel schedule, etc. A questionnaire may be given to evaluate your symptoms and sleep schedule. In certain cases, a physical examination is done if an underlying medical condition is suspected as the cause. Lab tests such as blood tests, thyroid function tests (TFTs), etc., may be necessary for some cases. If no apparent cause is identified, your doctor may ask you to spend a night at a sleep center. The quality of your sleep is monitored along with other possible symptoms. 

Differential Diagnosis

Insomnia can occur as a result of various factors, some of which may be normal and do not require any treatment. It is important to differentiate the possible causes of insomnia on the basis of history, symptoms, sleep schedule, and diagnostic evaluation. 


Treatment for insomnia depends on the severity of your symptoms. If you have short-term insomnia due to traveling or acute stress, it usually requires no treatment. Relaxation techniques are recommended to help the body adjust to a natural circadian rhythm. Chronic insomnia needs professional help to be treated. If you have an underlying medical or psychological condition, it is addressed first to eliminate the cause. Cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) is recommended before prescribing medications. In this therapy, various techniques are employed to rid your mind of negative or worrisome thoughts and train it for a proper sleep schedule. If relaxation techniques and therapy are not enough, medications are given to help with your symptoms.

Medications are given in prescribed dosages for a limited period of time. These medications may include Eszopiclone, Triazolam, Zolpidem, Ramelteon, Zaleplon etc. Prolonged use of this medication without your doctor’s consent can cause many side effects. Therefore, it should be avoided. 


The prognosis of insomnia depends on the severity of your condition and the effectiveness of treatment measures. Some people fall back into a regular sleep pattern within a few months. However, several cases may suffer from long-term insomnia despite treatment. 


Try to maintain a proper sleep schedule for yourself. Avoid excessive eating or using phones, laptops, and other gadgets before bedtime. Avoid caffeine or other stimulating agents a few hours before sleep. If you have a preexisting medical or psychological condition, consult a health expert to avoid any severe effects on your sleep quality. 

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