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What is insomnia? Insomnia is a problem with sleep. People with insomnia have trouble falling or staying asleep, or they do not feel rested when they wake up. Insomnia is not about the number of hours of sleep a person gets, because everyone needs a different amount of sleep. It is related to the quality of sleep.

FAQs regarding Insomnia

What are the symptoms of insomnia?

People with insomnia often:

  • Have trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Feel tired during the day
  • Forget things or have trouble thinking clearly
  • Get cranky, anxious, irritable, or depressed
  • Have less energy or interest in doing things
  • Make mistakes or get into accidents more often than normal
  • Worry about their lack of sleep

These symptoms can be so bad that they affect a person’s relationships or work life. Plus, they can happen even in people who seem to be sleeping enough hours.

Do I need to get any tests done?

Probably not. Most people with insomnia need no tests. Your doctor or nurse will probably be able to tell what is wrong just by talking to you. He or she might also ask you to keep a daily log for 1 to 2 weeks, where you keep track of how you sleep each night.

In some cases, people do need special sleep tests, such as “polysomnography” or “actigraphy.”

Polysomnography – Polysomnography is a test that usually lasts all night and that is done in a sleep lab. During the test, monitors are attached to your body to record movement, brain activity, breathing, and other body functions.

Actigraphy – Actigraphy records activity and movement with a monitor or motion detector that is usually worn on the wrist. The test is done at home, over several days and nights. It will record how much you actually sleep and when.

Should I see a doctor or nurse?

Yes. If you have insomnia, and it is troubling you, see your doctor or nurse. He or she might have suggestions on how to fix the problem.

Are there medicines to help me sleep?

Yes, there are medicines to help with sleep. But you should try them only after you try the techniques described above. You also should not use sleep medicines every night for long periods of time. Otherwise, you can become dependent on them for sleep.

Insomnia is sometimes caused by mental health problems, such as depression or anxiety. If that’s the case for you, you might benefit from an antidepressant rather than a sleep aid. Antidepressants often improve sleep and can help with other worries, too.

Can I use alcohol to help me sleep?

No, do not use alcohol as a sleep aid. Even though alcohol makes you sleepy at first, it disrupts sleep later in the night.

What is daytime sleepiness?

Daytime sleepiness is feeling sleepy during the daylight hours, when most people are awake and alert.

What causes daytime sleepiness?

Daytime sleepiness can be caused by:

  • Not having good sleep habits – For example, not having enough time to sleep at night or not having a regular sleep schedule.
  • A sleep disorder, such as:

Sleep apnea – People with this condition stop breathing for short periods during sleep.

Narcolepsy – People with this condition are very sleepy in the daytime and sometimes fall asleep suddenly during normal activities.

Insomnia – People with this condition have trouble falling or staying asleep.

  • A medical problem, such as:

Hypothyroidism – This is the medical term for when a person does not make enough thyroid hormone. This hormone controls how your body uses and stores energy.

Depression – People with this condition feel sad or down a lot of the time. They often also have trouble working or doing everyday tasks.

  • Things that disturb your sleep, such as:

Sounds – For example, if you have a new baby, he or she might cry and wake you up at night.

Health conditions, such as restless legs syndrome or nighttime leg cramps.

Schedule changes that affect sleep – This might include working a night shift or traveling to another time zone.

Medicines – Certain medicines can cause daytime sleepiness.

Is there anything I can do on my own to feel better?

That depends on the cause of your daytime sleepiness. But you can try having good sleep habits. This means that you:

  • Go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
  • Have drinks with caffeine in them only in the morning (these include coffee and tea).
  • Avoid alcohol.
  • Avoid smoking, especially in the evening.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight.
  • Exercise several days a week, but not right before bed.
  • Stay off your back when sleeping. (This is not always possible and does not always work.)
  • Avoid looking at screens that give off light before bed. These include phones, tablets, “e-reader” devices, and television. Looking at screens just before going to bed can make it harder to fall asleep. It might also make your sleep less restful.
  • Should I see a doctor or nurse? See a doctor or nurse if:
  • You are often very sleepy in the daytime.
  • You fall asleep in the middle of normal activities.
  • You fall asleep in a dangerous situation, such as while driving.
  • You see or hear things that are not really there.
  • When you wake up, you can’t move right away.
  • Your muscles feel weak if you laugh or get excited or angry.

Will I need tests?

Your doctor or nurse will decide which tests you should have. There are many different tests, but you might not need any. It depends on your age, other symptoms, and individual situation.

A “sleep study” is the most common test doctors use to find the cause of daytime sleepiness. For this test, you spend the night in a sleep lab at a hospital or doctor’s office. You are hooked up to different machines that monitor your heart rate, breathing, and other body functions. The results of the test tell your doctor or nurse if you have a sleep disorder.

Your doctor or nurse might also ask you to keep a daily log for 1 to 2 weeks, where you keep track of how you sleep each night.

How is daytime sleepiness treated?

That depends on what is causing your daytime sleepiness. Treatments can include:

  • Lifestyle changes – These can include changing your work schedule, taking naps, losing weight, or avoiding caffeine and alcohol.
  • Devices you wear at night – These can help people with sleep apnea.
  • Medicines – There are medicines that can help you stay awake in the daytime or sleep better at night.
  • Surgery – A few people with sleep apnea have surgery to treat it. But most people don’t need surgery for daytime sleepiness.

If you have a medical condition that is causing your sleepiness, you might need treatment for that, too.

Can daytime sleepiness be prevented?

You can reduce your chances of daytime sleepiness by having good sleep habits. If your doctor or nurse prescribes medicine or a device to wear, use it exactly how he or she tells you.

What if my child gets daytime sleepiness?

In children, daytime sleepiness is usually caused by not sleeping enough at night or not having good sleep habits. Some medicines can also make your child sleepy in the daytime.

Children with daytime sleepiness can act differently from sleepy adults. For example, your child might:

  • Have trouble paying attention in school
  • Be more active than usual
  • Act angry or emotional

If you think your child might have daytime sleepiness, talk to the doctor or nurse.