Authored by Revere Health

I Can’t Sleep: Do I Have Insomnia?

May 17, 2017 | Internal MedicineSleep Medicine

Do you often have trouble getting to sleep, staying asleep, or are unable to fall back to sleep after waking up early? You might have a sleep disorder known as insomnia. Insomnia affects sleep patterns, but this disorder can affect other aspects like energy levels, overall health, and basic quality of life.

Many adults experience short-term insomnia (known as “acute” insomnia) at some point in their lives, which lasts for a few days or a few weeks. Other cases can be chronic and affect people over long periods of time. Here are some basic facts you need to know about insomnia.

Types of Insomnia

There are two distinct types of insomnia:

  • Primary insomnia: Characterized by sleep problems that are independent of any other health conditions
  • Secondary insomnia: Sleep problems caused by external factors, such as health conditions, medications, or substance use.


Symptoms of insomnia include:

  • Difficulty getting to sleep, staying asleep, or waking too early
  • Tiredness or sleepiness during the day
  • Not feeling well-rested after sleeping
  • Poor mood, depression, anxiety, limited memory, and focus
  • Worries about sleep
  • Increase in accidents or mental errors

If these symptoms begin negatively interfering with your life, visit your doctor.

Causes and Risk Factors

For individual cases of acute insomnia, causes include:

  • Stress
  • Illness or physical discomfort
  • Medications that interfere with sleep
  • Interference in sleep schedule
  • Environmental factors (noise, light, temperature)

Causes of long-term, chronic insomnia includes:

  • Stress
  • Travel and work habits that throw off bodily rhythms
  • Negative sleep habits: including poor scheduling, naps, bad sleep environment, and screens before bed
  • Late snacks: eating too much just before bedtime can create discomfort while lying down and heartburn—both can contribute to insomnia
  • Mental health problems: depression, anxiety, and PTSD
  • Medications
  • Medical conditions, including chronic pain, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, asthma, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease
  • Other sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome
  • Caffeine, nicotine and alcohol, especially late at night.

Almost anyone can experience insomnia for at least a night or two, but certain groups are at higher risk:

  • Women: Insomnia can be worsened during menopause or during the menstrual cycle, and it is also common during pregnancy
  • People over 60
  • Mental health disorders
  • High stress levels
  • No regular schedule


If you have a severe case of insomnia, your doctor might recommend one of the following treatments:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: This program is meant to help people eliminate negative thoughts and actions that keep them awake using multiple techniques.
  • Medications: Prescription pills, including Lunesta, Sonata, and Ambien, can be used. However, these can have side effects, and there will be many situations where they’re only recommended for a few weeks at a time.

Prevention and Beating Insomnia

Several home remedies and prevention methods can help beat insomnia. Some people find success with melatonin and valerian supplements, acupuncture, yoga, tai chi, or meditation, though these methods should not replace the care of a doctor if your symptoms are affecting your quality of life.

You can also make several routine or lifestyle changes to combat insomnia:

  • Maintain a sleep schedule: Keep bedtime and waking time consistent on all days, and avoid naps wherever possible. Also, avoid large meals or drinks before bed, and look for ways to relax before going to sleep.
  • Increase your activity levels: More activity helps promote a better night’s sleep, as long as stimulating activities stop a few hours before bed.
  • Conduct a medication audit with your doctor: Check with your doctor to see if any medications you take might be contributing to insomnia.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine.
  • Work with your doctor to manage pain: If you’re dealing with any chronic pain, speak to your doctor about treatment options—chronic pain can contribute to insomnia.

If you’re dealing with insomnia, whether acute or chronic, speak to your doctor about identifying the causes and how you can reduce or eliminate symptoms.

Schedule an appointment with a Revere Health Internal Medicine provider today!

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“Insomnia.” The Mayo Clinic.

“An Overview of Insomnia.” WebMD.

The Live Better Team


The Live Better Team

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.