Lying wide awake late at night, yet again unable to fall asleep, you might wonder: “Do I have insomnia?”
Today, an alarming portion of the population suffers from the sleep disorder. According to a 2018 University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine study, 25 percent of the American population experience acute insomnia each year. And for six percent of Americans, the condition develops into chronic insomnia over the course of the year.
If you’re even asking yourself questions like, “Do I have insomnia?”, that’s likely a sign you should investigate your sleeplessness and assess its causes and seriousness. If you’re experiencing persistent problems falling and staying asleep, resulting in daytime drowsiness, you might well be experiencing what insomnia feels like. Asking yourself, “Do I have insomnia?” is an important and appropriate question on the road to diagnosis and possible treatment.
One fortunate aspect of insomnia is that it is often a self-diagnosable condition. Below, learn the basics about insomnia. Then read on to discover some suggested treatments for those who suffer from this exhausting and pervasive sleep disorder. (Note: If you do realize you’re suffering from insomnia, you will want to consult a health professional).
Do I have Insomnia: What is insomnia?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, insomnia is: “difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, even when a person has the chance to do so.”
Symptoms of insomnia
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Waking up often during the night and having trouble going back to sleep
- Waking up too early in the morning
- Feeling tired upon waking
- Low energy
- Difficulty concentrating
- Mood disturbances
- Decreased performance in work or at school
Types of Insomnia
When deducing the diagnosis to the question, “do I have insomnia?”, it’s a bit more complex than just a yes or a no. There are multiple types of insomnia, and they’re categorized based on certain aspects of how and why they affect people.
Types of insomnia based on association:
Primary insomnia: When a person is experiencing primary insomnia, they’re having sleep problems that are not directly associated with any other health condition or problem.
Secondary insomnia: When a person is experiencing secondary insomnia, that a person is having sleep problems because of a direct association with something else. Associative problems causing secondary insomnia could include: health conditions (such as asthma, depression, arthritis, cancer, or heartburn); pain; medication; or a substance (such as alcohol).
Types of insomnia based on duration:
Acute insomnia: This short duration insomnia is the type experienced by most people who suffer from general insomnia. Acute insomnia is often brought on by specific, transient life circumstances (such as not being able to sleep before a big test or after receiving distressful news). The brief, passing period of sleep disruption that defines acute insomnia tends to resolve without any treatment.
Chronic insomnia: This is when you should definitely consult a doctor. This consistent, persistent type of insomnia is characterized by disrupted sleep at least three nights per week, lasting at least three months. Chronic insomnia disorders can have many causes. Causes of chronic insomnia could include significant environmental changes, poor sleep hygiene, shift work that negatively affects circadian rhythms, other clinical disorders (chronic insomnia can be “co-morbid” — linked to another medical or psychiatric issue), use of certain medications that may lead to a long-term pattern of insufficient sleep. People with chronic insomnia may benefit from some form of treatment to help them return to healthy, natural sleep patterns.
Causes of Insomnia
There are as many potential factors that could trigger insomnia as there are variables in your life. However, here are some specific potential causes that might precipitate insomnia, according to WebMD.
Possible causes of acute insomnia
- Significant life stress (such as losing or changing jobs, a loved one passing away, undergoing a divorce, or moving)
- Emotional or physical discomfort
- Environmental factors. These might include noise, light (including smart device “blue” light!), or overly hot or cold temperatures that interfere with sleep
- Certain medications (for example, medications for treating colds, allergies, depression, high blood pressure, and asthma) can interfere with sleep
- Disturbances to normal sleep schedule (shut as crossing multiple time zones)
Possible causes of chronic insomnia:
- Chronic stress
- Pain or discomfort at night
Treatment for insomnia
By now you might have started to form an answer to your question: “Do I have insomnia?” As you’ve learned from the insomnia related information so far presented, many people experience acute insomnia, and usually it goes away on its own (often because the circumstance that brought it on goes away as well). However, if you believe you have any form of insomnia as outlined by the definitions, symptoms, and causes above, it’s a good idea to first and foremost go see a health care professional.
Your doctor will likely want to conduct a full check up which could include a physical exam, medical history, and sleep history. Your health care provider may ask you to keep a sleep diary for a week or longer, in order to keep track of your sleep patterns and energy levels throughout the day. In some cases, you could be referred to a sleep center for further specialized tests. Depending on the results of your checkup, your health care provider might also prescribe sleeping pills for a limited time.
In the meantime, while consulting a health professional, you can also seek to alleviate your insomnia through good sleep habits. Here are the sleep hygiene habits suggested by WebMD.
- Go to sleep at the same time each night and rise at the same time each morning. Try to avoid daytime naps.
- Don’t use screens that give off light before bed close to bedtime. The light from these screens can make it more difficult to fall asleep.
- Don’t use caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol late in the day.
- Exercise regularly. But don’t exercise too close to bedtime — not within 2 – 4 hours of going to sleep.
- Avoid eating a heavy meal just before bed.
- Make your bedroom environment comfortable.
- Engage in a consistent bedtime routine to help you relax before sleep.
- Try not to utilize your bed for anything other than sleep or sex.
- If you’re not falling asleep, and you’re not feeling drowsy, get out of bed. Read, or partake in an activity that’s not too stimulating until you feel ready to sleep.
- If you tend to lie awake worrying, try making a to-do list before heading to bed. This might help clear and ease your mind.