You toss, you turn, you look at the clock, you close your eyes tight, and consider trying to count sheep. If this sounds familiar, you may be struggling with insomnia. Amongst the sleep disorders, insomnia is unique in that it is a sleep disorder in its own right but it can also be a symptom of another sleep disorder. The main symptom that most people associate with insomnia, difficulty falling asleep, is only part of the picture. According to the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), this is just one of the symptoms of this disorder. You may also be dealing with insomnia if you wake up over and over all night long or wake up too early, regardless of how easy it was for you to fall asleep. Insomnia is actually characterized by being unable to get the sleep you need in order to wake up feeling rested. With that expanded definition, it may seem like we are all suffering from insomnia, at least some of the time.
However, having difficulty sleeping for a night or two or feeling overtired for a few days doesn’t necessarily mean you are struggling with insomnia. In fact, insomnia can actually be challenging to diagnose. If you are unable to get enough sleep to feel rested once in awhile, you may have acute insomnia. But this could also point to the existence of a different sleep disorder altogether like sleep apnea, which often makes sufferers feel as if they didn’t get much sleep when they get up in the morning. If your struggle is more consistent, you may have insomnia the sleep disorder, or you may have another sleep disorder or even a completely different underlying medical condition.
All of this simply underlines the importance of talking to your doctor when you are struggling to get the sleep you need to feel awake and refreshed in the morning. You may be chalking your symptoms down to insomnia when they actually point to a serious sleep disorder.
Symptoms of Insomnia
The National Sleep Foundation lists the following as symptoms of insomnia:
- Experiencing difficulties falling asleep at night
- Tossing and turning
- Frequent waking during the night, even if you are only waking up for a minute or two
- Struggling to fall back asleep if you awaken during the night
- Waking up earlier than intended in the morning
- Waking up in the morning feeling as if you haven’t slept
- Feeling unrefreshed regardless of how much sleep you got the night before
- Experiencing daytime sleepiness
- Difficulties with focus or concentration
- Moodiness and irritability
Insomnia can be caused by a variety of things including poor sleep hygiene, stress, an undiagnosed sleep disorder or medical condition, and certain medications. Because lack of sleep can be a contributing factor to several serious illnesses and can impact your ability to drive and work, it is important that you keep track of your sleep struggles and discuss them with your doctor. For more information about insomnia, visit the Insomnia Information site provided by the National Sleep Foundation.
- 6 Ways to Get a Good Night Sleep Tonight, and Every Night (valleysleepcenter.com)
- Insomnia and Your Life (valleysleepcenter.com)
- What is Keeping Us Up at Night? (valleysleepcenter.com)