- Transient – lasts only a few nights to a few weeks
- Intermittent – happens occasionally but not every night
- Chronic – happens most nights and lasts three or more weeks
Typically, there is no single cause for insomnia but a number of factors are known to contribute:
- Lifestyle – eating late at night, jet lag, hunger, alcohol, caffeine, stimulant drugs, including nicotine
- Environment – noise (e.g. partner snoring), uncomfortable bed or bedroom
- Physical health problems – sleep apnoea, asthma, tinnitus, pain, prostate problems, indigestion
- Psychological – stress, grief
- Psychiatric – depression, anxiety, ania
- Medication – e.g. certain tablets for asthma and treatments for nasal congestion, vertigo and depression
Rarely, insomnia occurs even when none of the above are present. This is known as 'primary' insomnia.
- Difficulty getting to sleep (taking more than 45 minutes to get to sleep)
- Difficulty staying asleep (frequent awakenings and difficulty getting back to sleep)
- Early morning waking
- Feeling tired and unrefreshed in the morning
- Nitrazepam is useful and effective but can be habit forming in long term. It continues to work for several hours (medium-acting) which means it has the potential to cause hangover drowsiness the following morning.
- Temazepam and lormetazepam are shorter acting, and less likely to cause daytime drowsiness.
- Avoid taking cat-naps during the day.
- Reduce the number of cups of coffee, tea or cola drinks you drink, especially later on in the day.
- Only drink alcohol in moderation. It may make you feel sleepy but will tend to make you wake up after a short time.
- Stop smoking – it can make breathing difficulties while asleep more likely.
- Take regular exercise but avoid strenuous activity immediately before going to bed.
- Try to get into a daily routine. Go to bed the same time each night and get up the same time each morning.
- Avoid heavy or rich meals, especially in the few hours before bedtime.
- Work out how many hours sleep you can manage with before daytime sleepiness becomes a problem. Becoming unnecessarily stressed over insomnia can lead to a vicious cycle.
- If you can't sleep, get up and read in a dim light until you feel sleepy. Don't watch television or lie in bed thinking about how much sleep you are missing.
- Other activities that can create a relaxed mood include taking a warm bath, having a milky drink, or listening to soothing music.
- Mentally dealing with the day's unfinished business is also helpful. Writing down any worries to deal with the next day may help to clear them from the mind and prevent them re-surfacing in the early hours.
This information was published by Bupa Group's Health Content Team and has been reviewed by appropriate medical or clinical professionals. To the best of their knowledge the information is current and based on reputable sources of medical evidence, however Bupa (Asia) Limited makes no representation or warranty as to the completeness or accuracy of the Content.
The information on this page, and any information on third party websites referred to on this page, is provided as a guide only. It should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional medical advice, nor is it intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. Bupa (Asia) Limited is not liable for any loss or damage you suffer arising out of the use of, or reliance on, the information.
Third party websites are not owned or controlled by Bupa and any individual may be able to access and post messages on them. Bupa is not responsible for the content or availability of these third party websites. Last updated August 2017.
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