Everyone has trouble getting to sleep now and again.
Sometimes, however, that inability persists beyond a night or two. At that point, the difficulty might be a sleep condition called insomnia, which is estimated to affect one-third to one-half of the population. Short-term insomnia generally lasts for a few days or weeks and is most often caused by stress or changes in one’s routine. If the insomnia persists more than a month, it becomes long-term or chronic. Insomnia includes symptoms like difficulty falling or staying asleep, exhaustion during the day, difficulty paying attention, and irritability.
There are multiple potential causes of insomnia:
- Changes in a travel or work schedule
- Poor sleep habits (e.g., irregular sleep schedule, using electronic devices before bed)
- Mental health disorders such as anxiety
- Hormone changes (e.g., menopause)
- Other medical conditions
Since there are many different factors that can cause insomnia, it’s best to talk with a doctor to figure out how you can help mitigate yours. These tactics may be as simple as limiting caffeine and alcohol or doing meditation and therapy to help reduce your stress levels, or setting a very consistent sleep schedule. If preliminary exams or tests don’t turn up anything, a doctor may recommend you do a sleep study, which will monitor what your body does while you sleep.
There are also multiple over-the-counter and prescription drugs that can help you sleep, including melatonin and Benadryl. If you’re having trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor before trying these, as some of them are only meant to be used short-term. Insomnia can be frustrating and exhausting, but it does not have to be permanent.