01/30/2012 04:21 pm ET

Your Sleep Questions Answered: Insomnia

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder affecting would-be sleepers from across all demographics. We scoured the Web to find answers to some frequently asked questions about insomnia, giving you background information so that you or your loved one can literally sleep better at night.

Note: You should not rely on the information in this post as an alternative to medical advice from your doctor or other accredited sleep expert. --Patricia Escarcega


According to the Center for Disease Control, insomnia is the inability to initiate or maintain sleep.The disorder can also take the form of early morning awakening, in which an individual may wake several hours early and has trouble falling asleep again.


An individual suffering from insomnia may have difficulty falling asleep on most nights, suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness, feel unrefreshed upon waking or may wake up several times during the course of the night, says the National Health Institute. According to WebMD, someone suffering from insomnia may also show signs of general tiredness, irritability and memory or concentration problems.


Some causes of insomnia include stress, medication side effects, environmental noise, extreme temperatures, changes in the surrounding environment and changes in the sleep/wake schedule, according to About. Insomnia may also be caused by a number of mental or physical problems, including depression, anxiety, asthma, allergies, sleep apnea, narcolepsy and others, says Helpguide.

Standard Treatments

Treatment for insomnia may vary according to whether an individual is suffering from acute or chronic insomnia, says WebMD. Some forms of acute insomnia may not require treatment, and mild insomnia can generally be treated by practicing good sleep hygiene habits. Acute insomnia may also be treated with rapid onset, short-acting prescription drugs. Chronic insomnia requires treating any underlying conditions or health issues that may be triggering the sleep disorder. Treatment may include behavioral therapy, relaxation exercises, sleep restriction and reconditioning.

Professional Treatment

Professional treatment from a doctor or sleep disorder specialist may be necessary if the insomnia is not responding to self-help strategies; if it's causing problems at home, work or school or physical symptoms like chest pain or shortness of breath; or if an individual is having trouble sleeping on an almost nightly basis, according to Helpguide.


Although insomnia may not be immediately life-threatening, the sleep disorder has been linked to early death. According to YourSleep, a recent study indicated that individuals who reported having insomnia in two of three sleep surveys over a 20-year period were three times more likely to have died than those who never reported having insomnia.

Quality Of Life

Chronic insomnia can severely affect one's quality of life. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, sleep deprivation can be detrimental to the health of the immune and nervous systems, and lead to impaired memory, cognitive ability and physical performance. Prolonged sleep deprivation can cause hallucinations and mood swings, and impair emotional and social functioning.

Have you ever suffered from insomnia? What worked for you?