Insomnia occurs when an individual experiences difficulty initiating and/or maintaining sleep. Most people will experience insomnia at some time, however chronic insomnia can be detrimental to physical and emotional health.

Short-term insomnia can be caused by anxiety, pain, alcohol, medication, shift-work, stimulant drinks such as coffee, noise or uncomfortable temperatures. Remember you are not alone, as around 30% of adults suffer from insomnia at some time.

What is Insomnia?

There are three basic elements that can occur in any combination in insomnia:

  • Difficulty falling asleep (sleep-onset insomnia)
  • Difficulty staying asleep, including waking up too early (sleep-maintenance insomnia); and
  • Poor-quality, fragmented sleep.

Sometimes, insomnia may cause the following symptoms:

  • Feeling tired and grumpy during the day
  • Having trouble concentrating at work
  • Falling asleep during the day

Many people are sleepy during the day simply because they went to bed too late the night before. They don't have a sleep disorder; they just don’t obtain enough sleep.

Everyone has an occasional night of bad sleep. For most people, insomnia lasts for only a few days and goes away without treatment. Anxiety, stress or depression can cause a higher level of insomnia that may last for several weeks. This kind of insomnia may not settle on its own.

Is Insomnia Common?

Insomnia is common - about 30% of adults have symptoms of insomnia at some time, and about 10% of adults have chronic insomnia. It is more common among the elderly and in women. Pain and some other medical conditions can cause insomnia, or it may be a side effect of a medication.

Insomnia is one of the most common medial problems reported to health professionals.

Causes of insomnia

There are a wide variety of medical, psychological, neurological, environmental and behavioural conditions that can contribute to insomnia. Insomnia may also be secondary to other sleep-disorders, such as sleep apnoea (even when this is of mild severity), restless legs syndrome and periodic limb movement disorder.

A Sleep Specialist can assess your sleep problems thoroughly and if appropriate, may recommend treatment for insomnia

Insomnia Treatment

Many insomniacs will respond to changes that you can make on your own. You can often learn to sleep better by learning good 'sleep hygiene' (click here to visit SNORE Australia’s Sleep Habits page). There are also easy ways to make your bed and your bedroom comfortable. It is especially important to minimise noise, light and too high or too low a temperature. Staying out of bed until you are very sleepy can also be helpful.

A Sleep Specialist also may want to change medications that you currently take, if these are likely to be causing your sleep problems. You may also need to seek help from a psychiatrist, psychologist or other therapist if stress or depression is causing your sleep problems.

If the problem persists, the key is to establish the correct diagnosis. In this situation, SNORE Australia’s Sleep Physicians will routinely recommend a full "Level 1" overnight sleep study - particularly to rule out OSA, RLS or PLMD but also, to establish the severity of the insomnia and rule out sleep state misperception. After this, specialist consultation can be arranged in order to address whatever diagnosis is established.