What is Insomnia?

Insomnia is difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep throughout the night resulting in too little or poor quality sleep and a feeling of exhaustion when you wake up.

What causes Insomnia?

  • Insomnia can be acute or chronic.
  • Acute insomnia lasts from one night to a few weeks.
  • Chronic insomnia is disturbance in sleep occurring at least three nights per week, for more than a month. About 30% of people have at least mild insomnia.

There are many causes for Insomnia these include:

  • Medications
  • Stress or other mood disorders such as anxiety and depression
  • Chronic Pain
  • Another sleep disorder

How is Insomnia Treated?

Acute or short term insomnia often does not require any treatment and can often be prevented or managed by practicing proper sleep habits.

Treating chronic insomnia will depend on the cause. It is important to first treat any medical problems that are interfering with your sleep. A sleep study may be recommended to ensure that there is no underlying sleep apnea preventing good sleep. If insomnia continues, behavioural therapy may be recommended to modify behaviours which can worsen insomnia, and also learn new behaviours to promote good sleep. These include good sleep hygiene, relaxation therapy or cognitive behavioural therapy.

Sleep Hygiene: This approach helps you develop good sleep habits. Managing caffeine and alcohol intake is important. Teaching your body to associate bed and bedtime with sleep is also important. The person is usually advised to use bed only for sleep and sex. You are taught to go to bed only when sleepy. If unable to sleep, leave your bedroom and do something else until you feel sleepy.

Relaxation Therapy: This helps reduce or eliminate nighttime stress, body tension and anxiety. The goal is to calm the mind so you are able to fall asleep.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy: This type of therapy is best managed by a psychologist and will depend on your individual needs. Your sleep physician or GP will be able to refer you if appropriate.

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