Insomnia – Causes And Treatments

Insomnia is a recognised sleep disorder which can have a number of widely different causes, from physical illness, suffering pain or discomfort, anxiety, worry over personal, financial or work situations and also mental health disorders such as depression, post traumatic stress disorder etc. Many soldiers returning from a tour of duty in a war zone will suffer from insomnia due to vivid memories and flashbacks.


Insomnia can be characterized by any or all of the following statements :


  • Inability to fall asleep
  • Waking in the early hours after very little sleep
  • Interrupted sleep – waking every hour and taking a while to return to sleep

If your family doctor has diagnosed you with insomnia there are a number of treatments he or she will want to try. Getting to the bottom of what is actually causing your insomnia is extremely important in deciding what course of action to take. In the past medication would be the first port of call with many sufferers being given sleeping tablets on their first visit to the doctor. Nowadays, after much research into the disorder and what causes it there are other options available.


The two main methods of treatment are:


  • Medication – usually by a drug known as an hypnotic such as Zopiclone or Zimovane (also known as the z drugs). These drugs work in much the same way as a benzodiazepine tranquilizer and can be highly addictive if taken any longer than a short term course.
  • Talking therapy – such as cognitive behavioural therapy by a trained specialist, counselling to get to the root of the cause of your insomnia and psychotherapy by a qualified psychologist.

There are also various self help measures which can be tried, either first or alongside other treatment methods. Here are some suggestions which have been proven to help:


  • Practice a regular sleeping and waking time – go to bed and get up at the same time each day regardless of how much sleep you may have had.
  • Take regular physical exercise preferably outside in the fresh air – do this earlier in the day as exercising close to bedtime will tend to kick start  the body and leave you feeling energised instead of sleepy.
  • Try to avoid watching tv or reading in bed – both will keep your mind active when it should be preparing for sleep.
  • Cut back on alcohol, nicotine and especially caffeine – all will disrupt your sleep pattern

So if you are suffering with lack of sleep regularly you probably have insomnia and should first get a correct diagnosis from your doctor and then discuss the preferred method of treatment with him or her. If they think a short course of sleep medication will help to resume a normal sleep pattern they will be able to prescribe the best one for your particular circumstances. You may be referred for therapy and given advice on  self help measures to practice, after which hopefully you will regain a normal sleep pattern and get the rest you need.


© Andrew Tudor Jones