WHMC Blog

Insomnia FAQ

General statistics show that over 30% of the U.S. suffers from insomnia. Many Americans experience some form of short-term insomnia due to stress or anxiety; however, deeper medical problems can also cause long-term insomnia. While a lack of sleep seems like a minor health issue, it can lead to problems such as falling asleep while driving or even more serious health problems like weight gain. At Whittier Hospital Medical Center, we are dedicated to helping our patients get a full night’s rest and to helping them lead a healthy lifestyle that improves their wellbeing.

If you have further questions about insomnia and what treatments are available to you, contact us!

What is Insomnia?

Insomnia is a pattern of sleep disruptions, typically the inability to fall asleep, the inability to stay asleep, or waking up too early in the morning. Instead of being a medical problem on its own, insomnia is usually a symptom of a bigger psychological or medical problem.

What Causes Insomnia?

Insomnia can be caused by many things. In some cases, poor sleep hygiene and lifestyle habits can cause insomnia. In other cases, depression sufferers frequently experience insomnia.

The following medical disorders may be an underlying cause of insomnia:

  • Heartburn
  • Arthritis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Depression
  • Chronic Anxiety
  • Enlarged Prostate
  • Hormonal Changes
  • Sleep Apnea

Speak with your healthcare professional to discuss the possible causes of your sleep disorder. In some cases, you may need to undergo a sleep study to learn more about your insomnia.

What are the Symptoms of Insomnia?

If you aren’t sure whether you actually deal with insomnia or just have a little trouble sleeping, be on the lookout for these symptoms.

Common symptoms of insomnia:

  • Fatigue during waking hours
  • Concentration problems
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Lack of coordination

If any of these are present, you should try to establish healthier sleep hygiene (see below) and see your doctor for further direction. In some cases, insomnia is temporarily induced by stress or anxiety.

What Should Patients Try Before Taking a Sleep Aid?

Before taking a sleep aid, patients should attempt to establish better sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene refers to the lifestyle habits and practices you follow before bedtime.

Try these healthy sleep hygiene practices:

  • Establish a regular bedtime routine that allows you to relax before sleep.
  • Exercise regularly, but avoid exercise close to bedtime.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, or tobacco close to bedtime.
  • Wake up at the same time every morning, including holidays and weekends.

Once these habits are in place, many insomnia sufferers feel an improvement in their symptoms or are cured altogether. The key to better sleep hygiene is consistency.

What Treatments are Available for Insomnia?

Because insomnia is so often a symptom of a deeper medical problem, medical professionals will have to determine the primary cause and treat that before attempting to improve your insomnia symptoms.

Treatments may include the following:

  • Prescription sleep aids
  • Over the counter sleep aids
  • Sleep hygiene
  • Alternative therapies
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy

Your health care provider will be able to determine what course of action is best for your symptoms.

Should I See a Doctor for Insomnia?

Many adults experience insomnia for various reasons; however, once circumstances such as work stress, relationship stress, or even PMS, resolve themselves, insomnia passes as well. Any long-term bouts of insomnia can negatively affect your overall health and should be brought to the attention of your personal health care provider. Because insomnia is usually a symptom of a deeper medical or psychological issue, it is best to see a doctor if you have been experiencing long-term insomnia.

Is Insomnia Life-Threatening?

In some cases, insomnia is a result of sleep apnea (holding breath involuntarily while you sleep). If insomnia is a result of a serious condition such as this, then it is life-threatening and should be treated immediately.

This article contains general information about medical conditions and treatments. The information is not advice and should not be treated as such. The information is not intended to replace the advice or diagnosis of a physician. If you have any specific questions about any medical matter you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider.