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Insomnia 101: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Why You Can’t Sleep


Do you know if your inability to sleep is a sign of a larger problem? photo credit: Alyssa L. Miller via photopin cc

Most people blame insomnia when they toss and turn and have trouble falling asleep but there is more to this sleep difficulty than just counting sheep.  According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), insomnia is actually used to describe the inability to get the sleep you need to wake up rested and ready to take on the world.  This means that if you fall asleep fast but wake up over and over until you finally roll out of bed as tired as you were when you laid down, you may also have insomnia.

Insomnia is a little trickier than some of the other sleep disorders because it is both a sleep disorder and a symptom of a sleep disorder.  This means that you may have insomnia the sleep disorder or you may have insomnia because you have a sleep disorder.   If you are struggling to get the sleep you need for a night or two once and awhile, your insomnia would be characterized as acute insomnia and you would be in good company.  The NSF indicates that almost 40% of Americans report having some problems with insomnia each year.  If you experience the symptoms of insomnia more frequently or if they last for more than a month, your insomnia would be classified as chronic.  Regardless of whether you believe your insomnia is acute or chronic, you should discuss it with your doctor.  You may need to participate in a sleep study or do some other testing to rule out underlying medical conditions and sleep disorders.

If you find yourself awake and alert into the wee hours of the night, you may want to start by making some real lifestyle changes.  Almost one-half of people who self-report insomnia blame stress, anxiety, and tension for their inability to sleep.  In these cases, there seems to be a correlation between how much stress the person is under and how bad their insomnia seems.  Decreasing your stress level can have a real, lasting impact on how you sleep.  You may also want to look at how much caffeine you are drinking over the course of the day and check to see if you are letting any sleep stealers keep you from getting the sleep you need.  Things like alcohol, exercise late in the day, and too much light or sound can impact both the amount of sleep you get and the quality of that sleep.

Another common cause for acute insomnia is side effects from medication.  Several over the counter and prescription medications can cause insomnia including those taken for asthma, high blood pressure, and thyroid disease.  If you are taking daily medication for a chronic condition, check with your doctor to see if your insomnia is related to the medication.  You may be able to switch to a comparable medication with less side effects or the doctor may offer you some tips on how to get the sleep you need without stopping the medication.

If you are experiencing frequent or repetitive problems getting the sleep you need to feel alert and awake during the day, make sure you check in with your doctor.  What you may be calling insomnia may be the result of an underlying medical condition or sleep disorder.


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"I recommend them highly!! I took my 2 year old daughter for a sleep study and was very impressed. Our sleep technician was amazing with her, very patient and kind. The DVD we brought to watch while getting her hooked up got stuck in the TV and they vowed to return it. We got a call the next day checking on our daughter and saying how sweet she was, they mentioned the DVD. Several days later, we received the DVD plus a new copy of the Lion King with a nice note. They are very good at what they do and if they can make a 2 year old feel at ease, they can probably do the same with anyone!!"

Anthea S.

Tempe, AZ

"I was especially impressed with Andrew the Respiratory Therapist who reviewed my study with me and answered my questions. Andrew thoroughly explained everything about the Cpap machine-from start to finish. I never felt rushed and was assured I could contact him with any additional questions or needs. Andrew told me he would follow up with a call in a week and he did. I believe this center performed the study appropriately and the added benefit of having Andrew teach me about the machine and what to expect was a bonus."

Candace M.

Scottsdale, AZ

"Great staff, they make you feel so at home. Every medical facility should be this nice. Felt like a nice hotel. Someone has great taste in decorating. Thanks for making us feel at home."

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San Diego, CA