Insomnia is a common problem — approximately half of American adults report experiencing insomnia at some time. It affects both men and women, although females and elderly are typically affected the most. The condition is classified into three groups depending on the length that it lasts:
Although insomnia is not considered a serious medical problem, lack of sleep can seriously impact your quality of life. It can make you feel tired, depressed and irritable, as well as impair your concentration.
Although it differs for each person, most adults need about seven to nine hours of sleep to feel completely rested. And, despite common belief, the need for sleep does not decrease with age.
Some of the most common causes of insomnia include:
Other factors that also can cause insomnia include:
Symptoms of insomnia include:
If you think you are experiencing insomnia, your doctor will start by asking you about your medical history as well as your sleep history. Your doctor will ask you and your bed partner, if he or she is present, certain questions to determine your sleep habits. This may include questions about the following:
The first step in treatment for insomnia involves diagnosing and treating any underlying medical or psychological problems that may be contributing to your insomnia. The key to treating insomnia is to determine what is causing it and then eliminating those factors from your life. Often once the causes, such as jet lag or stress, are dealt with, insomnia goes away on its own.
However, there are some cases when other treatment is required. In addition to identifying the causes of insomnia and then trying to eliminate or reduce them, treatment may include the following.
Typically, sleeping pills are prescribed at a low dose and for a short duration of time. They are not recommended for long-term use and should be taken under the close supervision of your doctor.
Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.