Insomnia is defined as having a problem with sleeping. The symptoms include feeling tired, drowsiness, poor concentration and memory, and depressed mood.

Woman yawning with a cup of coffee in handIt is a common medical condition, affecting up to one in three Australians. However the type of insomnia experienced varies from person to person. You can find it hard to go to sleep, wake up in the night or too early in the morning, or have poor quality sleep and feel tired during the day.

Similarly, there are different causes including:

  • Medications for conditions such as asthma and blood pressure that cause side effects
  • Substances like caffeine and alcohol
  • Conditions such as chronic pain, depression and anxiety disorder
  • Stress
  • Disorders such as sleep apnoea (upper airway obstruction) and restless legs syndrome (a nerve system condition)

In some cases no clear cause is found, which is called ‘primary insomnia.’

What to do?

For some people, insomnia is acute (present for less than 3 weeks) and goes away without treatment. But for others, it’s chronic (ongoing) and requires treatment to get better. Your doctor can help decide the best treatments and a sleep diary may assist with these decisions. The diary should include: sleep and waking times, and feelings of refreshment and tiredness.

Your treatment options can include:

  • Sleep hygiene: This includes a set of nightly bedtime habits and rituals and avoiding substances like caffeine and alcohol that disrupt sleep.
  • Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT): A psychological therapy that deals with thoughts and behaviours disrupting sleep and teaches you new good habits such as stress reduction.
  • Sleeping pills, however only short term because they become ineffective when taken for too long and also habit-forming (addictive).
  • Treatments for specific causes like sleep apnoea.

For more information: Visit the Sleep Health Foundation website or call them on +61 2 8814 8655

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