What is Insomnia?

Do you have difficulty falling asleep? Do you wake up in the middle of the night and have difficulty falling back to sleep? Do you wake up earlier than your alarm and have difficulty falling back to sleep? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, then you might have Insomnia.

Insomnia is defined as difficulty falling asleep. There are two main categories of insomnia: sleep onset and sleep maintenance insomnia.

Sleep onset insomnia is a difficulty falling asleep at the beginning of the night. It is usually triggered by a stressful event, like a death in the family or before a hard test at school. Normally it should resolve when the trigger is no longer present (after you have taken the test), but in some people the insomnia becomes a chronic problem. With sleep onset insomnia, it is always important make sure that other sleeping disorders, like restless legs syndrome and sleep apnea are adequately treated, as they can exacerbate it.

Sleep maintenance insomnia occurs when a person has difficulty falling asleep after waking up in the middle of the night. The most important point about sleep maintenance insomnia is that there is often an underlying physiologic problem of sleep (like Sleep Apnea) that is leading to the awakenings in the first place. If this problem is not adequately addressed, then it can be very difficult to treat sleep maintenance insomnia.

Who Gets Insomnia?

Anyone can get insomnia. Most people experience at least once in their lives. It is estimated that approximately 10% of the general population have chronic insomnia. Insomnia is considered a problem when it has not resolved in a reasonable period of time.

I Think I Might Have Insomnia, How Do I Find Out If I Have It?

Make an appointment with your primary care physician, or if your insurance allows it, go straight to a sleep specialist. If your physician thinks you might have insomnia, then he/she will either treat you with a medication or refer you to a sleep specialist for further evaluation.

How Is Insomnia Treated?

The treatment of insomnia with medications has become a multibillion-dollar industry, but the best treatment methods are actually behavioral methods. Behavioral treatments range from developing good sleep habits to group cognitive behavioral therapy. For the short-term, most of the newer sleeping pills, including Ambien®, Sonata®, Lunesta®, and Rozerem® can provide immediate relief. Ask your doctor about what option is right for you.