Insomnia is a sleep disorder in which one finds it difficult to fall asleep. Insomnia is quite a widespread sleep disorder. According to the Center for disease control and prevention about 70 million adults experience this sleep-wakefulness disorder at least once a week.

We have highlighted all that you need to know about insomnia and tips to beat it hands down! Read on…

Types of insomnia

Insomnia is categorized into two kinds:

Primary insomnia

In this type of insomnia, the sufferer experiences sleeplessness that is not related to any health problems.

Secondary insomnia

In this type of insomnia one experiences sleeplessness as a result of a health problem or something else such as pain or medications.

Insomnia may also be classified depending on how long it lasts:

  • Acute insomnia is sleeplessness occurring over a short-term period. It lasts from one night to a few weeks and then disappears.
  • Chronic insomnia occurs over an extended period. It can also appear and disappear. It occurs when one has at least three sleepless nights in a week for a month or so.

How much sleep do you need?

There are no proper guidelines in how much sleep is enough, simply because each person’s body has its unique functioning mechanism. Even though, the average amount healthy sleep for an adult is about 7-9 hours. Small babies need more sleep than this, as we grow our bodies become more active and we may need less sleep.

The most important thing is that you should feel right about the length of time you have slept and quality of sleep you get over time. The most precise indicator of low quality sleep is tiredness and low energy during the day

 Signs and symptoms of insomnia

Signs and symptoms of insomnia include: general body tiredness

  • Irritability
  • Problem concentrating
  • Sleepiness during the day
  • Lack of feeling of refreshed when you wake up
  • Early morning waking up and inability to go back to sleep
  • Waking up several times at night
  • Lying awake for several hours at night.
  • Poor focus on activities
  • Tension headaches
  • Inability to properly socialize
  • Getting stressed about, believe it or not,  sleeping

What causes insomnia?

Several factors can lead to insomnia. Here are a few major ones:

1. Depression

Psychological struggles make it hard for one to sleep. Besides insomnia can bring changes into one’s mood. Decrease or increase of various hormones that control different mechanism in the body as a result of depression may lead to insomnia.

Sleep problems especially insomnia often presents as a sign of depression and the risk is higher in patients with major depressive disorders. Recent studies have shown that insomnia can be triggered or get worsened by depression.

Understanding that symptoms of depression can be made worse by insomnia. For example, depression leads to low energy and low productivity; these are two things that can be linked to insomnia too. Fortunately, regardless of what occurs first, both are treatable if diagnosed.

2. Lifestyle

Insomnia could also be triggered by one’s lifestyle. Unhealthy sleep habits and lifestyles can result in insomnia own their own without any other psychiatric or medical problem. Here is how certain lifestyle and habits may cause insomnia:

  • If you happen to work in the evening at home. The light from your computer may make it hard for you to get into sleep mode. The light also keeps your mind much alert; hence it becomes hard to fall asleep.
  • Taking naps however how short in the afternoon may result in difficulty in falling sleep at night.
  • Sleeping in later to make up the lost sleep may also confuse your body pattern and could result in difficulties in falling asleep the following night.
  • If you happen to work in irregular hours, your body may get confused especially of sometimes you sleep during the day after a night shift.

3. Hormonal imbalance

Melatonin hormone regulates sleep. However it is not the only hormone that does this, hormonal imbalance results in challenges in establishing circadian rhythms (sleep and wake up cycles). It is essential to manage your body hormones by taking enough vitamins that are essential in enabling the hormonal system function properly as it should.

3. Caffeine

Caffeine is a stimulant. In moderation, caffeine has not been reported to cause insomnia. However, in large quantities, caffeine causes sleeplessness up to 48 hours. Caffeine can stay in the body up to 10 hours meaning that its effects are long-lasting. If you happen to have serious episodes of insomnia, avoid caffeine at all costs, it will only worsen your condition.

4. Nicotine

Nicotine is a stimulant just like caffeine. Smoking of cigarettes an hour or two before bedtime may lead to difficulty in falling asleep. Besides, smoking damages your body organs which endanger your overall health.

5. Heavy meals

Heavy meals increase your body’s metabolism. Your body may need to work extra harder to digest a heavy meal compared to a lighter meal taken at the right time. Bear in mind that if you eat heavily at night, you may experience discomfort which may make it a little difficult for your body to fall asleep.

6 Certain brain neurotransmitters

Insomnia could also occur as a result of disruption of neurotransmitters in the brain that control wakefulness and sleep.

  • The brain has several chemicals that could interfere with your sleep patterns

7. Certain medical conditions

There are several medical conditions both mild and severe that can lead to severe insomnia. In some cases, the medical condition may be the cause of insomnia, while in other cases, the symptoms such as pain lead to discomfort that causes lack of sleep.

Examples of such conditions include:

  • Lower back pain
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Neurological conditions such as Parkinson disease.

Again drugs taken for allergies and thyroid disease may lead to long episodes of insomnia. Additionally, insomnia could be a symptom of an underlying sleep disorder. For example, a person with restless leg syndrome may experience insomnia in the long run.

How is insomnia diagnosed?

Diagnosis of insomnia is made by a sleep specialist. In most cases the diagnostic process starts with a physical exam that looks into underlying problems.

To be diagnosed with insomnia, you must have experienced disturbed sleep for more than one month and must have had a negative impact on your overall health.

One may be asked to keep a sleep diary to help understand their sleeping pattern. Other additional detailed test includes polysomnograph which is an overnight sleeping test that monitors ones sleeping patterns.

In rare cases, actigraph may be conducted. An actigraph uses a small wrist-watch that measures movement and sleep-wake patterns.

What are the risk factors for insomnia?

Insomnia affects people of any age. Even though, it’s common in female adults. The most side effects are low energy output, lack of concentration, memory problems and reduced reaction time.

Here is a group of people at high risk of suffering from insomnia.

  • Travelers
  • Shift workers
  • The elderly
  • Pregnant women


After identifying the cause of your insomnia, the doctor will work towards eradicating the underlying cause. In most cases, the doctor discusses with you the things you need to change and behaviors you need to adapt to cure your insomnia.

The most common type of treatment is Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This is a talking therapy that is aimed at helping one avoid thoughts and behaviors affecting their sleep. This is usually the first resort when it comes to treating insomnia.

In other cases, one may be prescribed sleeping tablets. This is usually the last resort and is used to treat chronic insomnia. However, this kind of drug is used for only a few days since they do not treat the cause of insomnia. Additionally, the drugs may have several side effects.

Home remedies

Here are some home remedies to help you deal with insomnia:

1. Acupuncture

Depending on what the underlying cause of insomnia is, there are different types of acupuncture recommendable. Abdominal acupuncture is especially useful for women. Even though the most common effect of acupuncture is psychosomatic, several benefits come with acupuncture.

2. Hot baths

Hot baths with Epsom salt that are more so suggested by naturopathic practitioners help induce good night sleep. The natures of warm bath helps the body induce endorphins in the body that help bring about natural sleep. If you do this regularly, you shall notice that the quality of your sleep will have improved.

3. Sugar

Sugar increases muscle activities, in that relation, excessive sugar acts a stimulant. While small amounts of sugar regulate your insulin and help release tryptophan which then stimulates release of serotonin.

  • A small amount of sugar, let’s say in milk goes a long way in helping you sleep better.

4. Magnesium and melatonin

Melatonin keeps your internal schedule in check. It signals you when your body is about to go into sleep mode. Milk contains calcium which helps the brain make tryptophan that in return stimulates serotonin and eventually melatonin to be release in the body. This explains why a glass of milk is common in getting rid of insomnia.

Magnesium carries out the same activities such as calcium. Magnesium uses a different approach in that it reduces the speed of nerve impulse and therefore inducing a relaxed mood that helps one fall sleep quickly.

  • You can easily get magnesium from milk, green leafy, vegetables, and fish or as supplements

5. Chamomile tea

Chamomile tea has been used over the years to treat insomnia of all kinds. Chamomile tea contains a chemical property called apigenin that causes muscle relaxation hence drowsiness. Adding a tablespoon of honey and cinnamon to your tea helps you get more relaxed and improves the quality of sleep you have every night.

6. Valerian

Valerian root is a medical herb because it contains sedative properties that induce deep muscle relaxation hence sleep.

To make a home remedy for insomnia, you have to grate the root and add one tablespoon of nutmeg per two cups of water. Allow the mixture to steep for about 10-15 minutes and drink it at only once to avoid heart-related problems and withdrawal symptoms. The root is also available as valerian tincture.

Other tips that help with insomnia

Here are additional tips that should help you sleep better:

  • Improving your sleep quality starts with creating a good environment for sleep. Try doing the following to improve the quality of your sleep.
  • Keep your television out of the bedroom
  • Avoid going to bed hungry
  • Stop smoking and drinking caffeine few hours before bed
  • Try relaxation techniques such as meditation and yoga; they go a long way in helping your muscle relax hence a good night’s sleep.
  • Do not restrict yourself from time spent in bed. If you do so, you may experience tiredness the following day
  • Do not go to bed when you are not sleepy. Always set the alarm in the morning and at night to help you control your sleeping and waking up schedules.

When to see a doctor

Should you see a doctor about your insomnia? Make an appointment to see a doctor if you are finding it difficult to sleep or staying asleep. See your doctor when the above measures have failed and also if insomnia is affecting your daily energy output.

A doctor can check your medical history or any factors leading to insomnia. It is ok if your doctor decides to keep your sleeping diary for a couple of weeks. This way, they are able to identify your sleep disorder and also get a better understanding of why you have difficulty falling asleep.

Last thoughts on insomnia

Lack of sleep is a serious medical problem that affects millions of people around the world. Insomnia can easily be managed by taking charge of your thoughts regarding sleep and rest. Avoid making drastic changes or get into any therapy, talk to your doctor about your lack of sleep. Do not take any symptoms lightly; some manifestations are as a result of dangerous or fatal conditions that may need proper medical attention.


  1. Key sleep disorders (May 2015)

  1. Insomnia (May 2013)

  1. Better sleep (January 2009)