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Healthcare: Sleep Medicine

Insomnia

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About Insomnia

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Insomnia is a common sleep problem that can affect your quality of life. It can cause you to have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. You may wake up during the night or wake up too early the next morning.

Your sleep problems may come and go, or they may be ongoing.

  • A short-term sleep problem is often linked to short-term stress. This short-term insomnia can last for days to weeks. It often gets better in less than a month.
  • A chronic sleep problem is ongoing. It's called chronic insomnia. It is often a symptom of another health problem, such as depression or chronic pain. Chronic insomnia is less common than short-term sleep problems.
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Causes of Insomnia

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The everyday stresses of life—your job, your family or relationships, money problems, jet lag—can keep you from sleeping well. It's also common to have trouble sleeping when you have a fever or an injury. These stresses are often temporary.

Your habits and activities before bedtime, such as drinking coffee, watching TV, or using the computer, can also affect how well you sleep.

And some medical conditions, medicines, and other substances can cause sleep problems that last a long time. These include:

Sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is breathing that stops during sleep. The problem can be mild or severe, based on how often your lungs don't get enough air. People with sleep apnea often have sleep problems. They also have a higher risk of high blood pressure.

Restless legs syndrome. This is a problem that produces strong discomfort, aching, or twitching deep in the toes, ankles, knees, or hips—often during sleep. The symptoms can wake you up.

Heart failure. Many people with heart failure have trouble sleeping. This may be because of trouble breathing or because of depression or anxiety. Many people with heart failure also have sleep apnea.

Ongoing (chronic) pain. Pain can make it hard to sleep, and chronic pain can lead to sleep deprivation, or sleep debt. Chronic pain has many causes, such as back problems or arthritis.

Mental health problems. Anxiety, depression, and mania can cause sleep problems.

Medicines and other substances. Many medicines can cause sleep problems. Examples include antidepressants, cold medicines, steroids, and nonprescription diet aids. Alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, and illegal drugs can also interfere with your sleep.

If you have an illness that's keeping you from sleeping, it can sometimes become a bad cycle. The illness keeps you from sleeping well. And without enough sleep, your body can't fight the illness as well.

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