Sleepless nights happen every now and then for just about everyone, but if you’re spending more nights tossing and turning than you are sleeping, you may have insomnia, a sleep disorder that can make it hard to fall asleep, stay asleep or both.
“Most adults will experience insomnia at some point in their life,” explains Robert Satriale, MD, Medical Director of The Sleep Disorders Center at Exton. “But long-term insomnia is cause for concern. It can take a toll on your mood, energy and, most importantly, your health.”
Risk Factors and Symptoms
Although anyone can be victim to insomnia, there are certain risk factors that may make you more prone to it. Women and people over age 60 are more likely to suffer from insomnia, as well as anyone suffering from a mental health disorder, traveling long distances or working overnight shifts.
Lack of sleep or the inability to sleep may be one of the most commonly known indicators of insomnia, but there are other symptoms that can help you determine whether you’re suffering from the disorder, including:
- Gastrointestinal problems
- Irritability or depression
- Tension headache
- Daytime fatigue or not feeling well rested after a night’s sleep
- Difficulty paying attention or focusing on tasks
If you believe you may be suffering from insomnia, the first step to take is scheduling an appointment with your doctor, who may conduct a physical exam and have you complete a questionnaire regarding your sleep patterns. Based on these results, you may be recommended to a sleep specialist, who can help determine the best approach to alleviating your insomnia.
“Changing your sleeping habits and understanding the underlying factors in your insomnia often restores restful sleep,” says Dr. Satriale. “However, if these measures do not work, your doctor or specialist might recommend other approaches.”
Behavioral therapies, such as relaxation techniques and light therapy, teach patients how to alter their sleep environment and behaviors to be more conducive to a restful sleep. These therapies are often the first treatment option that is explored for patients, but for those suffering with severe insomnia, it may not be enough.
Prescription sleep aids are an alternative treatment, but the side effects of these medications can include drowsiness, agitation and night wandering, so it’s best to talk to your doctor about all of your options.
The Riddle Hospital Sleep Center provides treatment services for a variety of sleep disorders, including insomnia.