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PSPH Sleep Center InsomniaInsomnia causes people to have difficulty with healthy sleep patterns. A person with insomnia may struggle to fall asleep or they may wake up early and be able to return to sleep.

While everyone struggles with a restless night from time to time, if you find your insomnia lasting longer than a few days you may need to seek medical advice.

Symptoms of insomnia may include:

  • Difficulty falling asleep at night
  • Awakening during the night
  • Awakening too early
  • Not feeling well rested after a night's sleep
  • Daytime fatigue or sleepiness
  • Irritability, depression or anxiety
  • Difficulty paying attention or focusing on tasks
  • Increased errors or accidents
  • Tension headaches
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms
  • Ongoing worries about sleep

Causes of insomnia

There could be a variety of causes for ongoing sleep problems. Some possibilities include:

  • Stress concerns about family, work, school or even health can keep your mind busy, not allowing you to fall asleep. As well, a major life event such as job loss, divorce or death of a loved one may also make it difficult to sleep.
  • Anxiety: Regular daily anxieties or more serious anxiety disorders may keep you awake.
  • Mental Health Disorders: Depression or other mental health disorders cause chemical imbalances in the brain that can affect sleep. This may materialize in too much sleep or as insomnia.
  • Medications:There are an array of prescription medications and even some over-the- counter medications that can affect sleep. Speak with your doctor if you believe your medication is affecting your sleep.
  • Caffeine, nicotine and alcohol: Stimulants such as energy drinks, coffee, tea,and sodas with caffeine can all cause you to have trouble falling asleep, especially if consumed too close to bed time. Products containing nicotine, such as cigarettes and chewing tobacco, are stimulants and can affect your sleep. Though alcohol is a sedative, it can affect deeper stages of sleep and can cause you to awaken in the middle of the night.
  • Medical Conditions: Needing to urinate frequently, chronic pain, breathing problems or other medical issues may cause you to struggle to fall or stay asleep. Keeping up on your treatment for medical conditions may greatly improve your quality of sleep.
  • Poor Sleep Habits: Sleep hygiene is good sleep habits. It is important to have good sleep hygiene. Irregular sleep schedules, stimulating activities before bed and an uncomfortable sleep environment are examples of poor sleep hygiene and can all affect getting quality sleep.
  • Eating Habits: Healthy eating habits are also important to sleep. Eating too much too late can cause people to feel physically uncomfortable and not be able to sleep. Having a light snack probably won’t cause problems, but be careful what you eat too close to bed time.
  • 'Learned’ Insomnia: This is when you worry too much about trying to fall asleep and try too hard to do so. This then keeps you from falling asleep.

When to see a doctor

If you find that your sleep problems are regularly disrupting your day, it would be good to see your doctor. They can help you determine the cause of your sleeping problems and refer you to a sleep specialist if there is concern you may have a sleep disorder.

What you can do

A change in habits can make a huge difference in your quality of sleep. Try to:

  • Stick to a sleep schedule
  • Get out of bed when you are not sleeping, then go back to bed when tired
  • Use your bedroom only for sleeping or intimate relations
  • Find ways to relax
  • Avoid or limit naps
  • Make your bedroom comfortable for sleep
  • Exercise and stay active, but not too close to bedtime
  • Avoid or limit caffeine, alcohol and nicotine
  • Check the effects of your medications
  • Avoid large meals and beverages before bed
  • Don’t put up with pain
  • Hide the bedroom clocks