Many people will experience challenges related to not achieving a sufficient amount of sleep, poor quality of sleep, being unable to sleep, or not feeling rested at some point in their lifetime. However, when the problem becomes prolonged, interferes with daily functioning, or impacts physical or mental health problems can arise in one’s familial, social, and vocational life. Notably, problems pertaining to sleep are often secondary to a medical illness such as sleep apnea, or a mental health condition like depression. Sleep issues can be a sign of an impending condition such as bipolar disorder. In addition to disturbing sleep itself, many medical and mental health conditions can be exacerbated by sleep-related problems. Unfortunately, some sleep problems and or interferences such as insomnia can be positively correlated to many mental illnesses, such as, depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, substance abuse, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and other significant mental health issues.

Insomnia is defined as an inability to get the amount of sleep needed to function efficiently throughout the daytime. Not surprisingly, over a third of persons living in the US report difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep. In addition to physical and mental health concerns, insomnia can be caused by a change in lifestyle, work obligations, stress, travel, being in a adjusting to a different time zone, medicinal side effects, eating very late at night, poor diet, restlessness, etc. Some sedative medications may cause sleepiness during intoxication but can disturb sleep and cause serious problems sleeping in people who are addicted to or withdrawing from these medications.

Short-term Insomnia can be Relieved by Trying the Following:

  • Taking a hot bath
  • Exercising
  • Changing medication/stopping a medication
  • Drinking warm milk
  • Turning off the light before you go to bed
  • Making changes to your diet
  • Refrain from eating late at night
  • Relaxation Techniques
  • Herbal remedies

Long-term Insomnia can be Relieved by Trying the Following:

  • Obtaining a physical assessment to identify/rule out physical illness causing insomnia
  • Obtaining a mental health assessment to identify/rule out mental illness causing insomnia
  • Treating underlying medical/mental condition causing insomnia
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Phototherapy (light therapy)
  • Medication
  • Quit smoking
  • Maintaining a healthy diet

Potential Causes of Insomnia Include:

  • Advanced age
  • Changes in health
  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Medication side effects
  • Mental illness
  • Changes in physical activity
  • Hormonal changes
  • Increased Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Lack of a regular or consistent schedule

Complications Resulting from Insomnia Include:

  • Disruption in daily functioning
  • Lower performance at work or in school
  • Difficulty processing information correctly/cognition
  • Slowed reaction time while driving and a higher risk of accidents
  • Increased risk and severity of long-term diseases or conditions, such as high blood pressure and heart disease
  • Negative impact on pre-existing mental or medical condition

Although, challenges related to sleep happens to everyone at some time or other during the course of one’s life once it begins to interrupt daily functioning or becomes long and debilitating it is important to discuss these issues with a doctor. Talk to your doctor and discuss which of the lifestyle changes, behavioral therapies, or medication options would be best for you.