What is Insomnia?

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✅ This article has been medically reviewed by: Dr. Amita Fotedar, Ph.D., Dr. Kate Sołdaj, M.D. and Dr. Bartłomiej Orybkiewicz, M.D.

Have you ever had a night where it felt impossible to sleep? If so, you’ve experienced insomnia. Of course, having insomnia for one night doesn’t make it a medical condition. We’ll assume if you’re reading this you’d like to define insomnia because it is happening on a more regular basis. With this in mind, in the following article we will discuss the causes of insomnia, insomnia symptoms, and things like chronic insomnia and severe insomnia. Hopefully, this will help you to define insomnia so you know if it is affecting you and if so, how to treat it.

What is Insomnia?

Researchers have begun to define insomnia as your brain being unable to stop the wake cycle. A brain has two cycles; sleep and wake. While one is working, the other is not. Insomnia can occur because your brain needs too much awake time or too little sleep time. More important than asking, what is insomnia, is looking to the medical causes of insomnia, as they will help you to truly understand if you have a problem and how it can be addressed.

What Causes Insomnia?

If you want to know what causes insomnia, that really depends on the situation. There are a number of insomnia causes and while any one of them can cause insomnia, every case is different. A variety of medical conditions could also be insomnia causes. Some conditions known to cause insomnia include arthritis, asthma, anxiety, depression, sinus allergies, neurological conditions, chronic pain, and other medical issues. Some of the reason for insomnia is that many of these conditions require medicine and many medicines list insomnia as a side effect.

Beyond medical conditions, you might find insomnia is caused by stress, changing work schedules, or even something as simple as eating too much, too late at night. Consumption of caffeine and/or alcohol can also be causes.

Chronic insomnia, which is reoccurring, usually is associated with medicine or medical reasons. Many people have isolated incidents of insomnia all the time, but chronic insomnia is usually related to underlying medical conditions.

Severe insomnia is rather rare. If you think you have severe insomnia, you should contact your doctor to see what they recommend.

Insomnia Symptoms

If you’re curious about insomnia symptoms, here are some of the most common ones.

  • Waking up too early
  • Waking in the night
  • Difficulty going to sleep
  • Not feeling rested after a full night’s sleep
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Worrying about being able to sleep

If you think you need treatment for insomnia that should be discussed with your doctor. Many times, simple lifestyle changes can help reduce issues with insomnia. For instance, drinking less caffeine and making sure to not eat before bed may help make it easier for some people to sleep. For more severe insomnia or for chronic insomnia, medication or other things may be required.

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