Insomnia: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, and Treatment
- Chronic insomnia
- Chronic insomnia disorder
Symptoms of Insomnia
- Difficulty falling asleep at night
- Waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to go back to sleep
- Waking up too early and not being able to go back to sleep
- Not feeling well-rested after a night’s sleep
- Daytime tiredness or sleepiness
- Difficulty paying attention
- Difficulty focusing on tasks
- Difficulty remembering things
- Increased errors or accidents
- Ongoing worries about sleep
- Lowered immunity
- Lowered sex drive
- High blood pressure
- Kidney disease
- Heart disease
Causes and Risk Factors of Insomnia
- Having a high chronic stress load
- Experiencing traumatic or stressful life events (contracting a virus, getting in an accident, experiencing an emotional event, childbirth, etc.)
- Experiencing traumas or stressful events in close succession
- Poor sleep habits (irregular bedtime schedule, stimulating activities before bed, an uncomfortable sleep environment, etc.)
- Having a mental health disorder or physical health condition
- Substance abuse
How Insomnia is Diagnosed
To diagnose insomnia, a doctor will perform a physical exam, ask about your symptoms and sleep habits, and recommend blood tests, which helps them determine if another condition may be causing your symptoms.
If the cause of your insomnia isn’t clear, a sleep study may be ordered. This entails spending the night at a sleep center where tests are done to monitor and record a variety of body activities while you sleep, including brain waves, breathing, heartbeat, eye movements, and body movements.
How Insomnia is Treated
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT is a type of talk therapy that is commonly used to help those with insomnia. The cognitive part of CBT teaches sufferers to recognize and change thoughts and beliefs that affect their ability to sleep, while the behavioral part of CBT helps people develop good sleep habits and avoid behaviors that keep them from sleeping well. Some behavioral strategies may include maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, practicing relaxation techniques, and avoiding caffeine and alcohol in the evening.
The process of overcoming insomnia through CBT often takes several months of weekly visits to a therapist. While CBT is helpful for many insomnia sufferers, it can be quite expensive, which is a drawback for patients seeking treatment.
Over-the-counter sleep aids
- Natural supplements, such as melatonin, magnesium, valerian root, lemon balm, and chamomile
How re-origin Approaches Insomnia
Insomnia occurs when the limbic system becomes traumatized due to experiencing physical or emotional trauma. In this impaired state, the limbic system repeatedly sends out inappropriate alarm signals to warn of danger, leading to many potential symptoms, including insomnia, anxiety, and depression.
The good news is that your restless, sleepless nights can be eliminated (or at the very least, greatly reduced to just the occasional night of fitful sleep). At re-origin, we focus on addressing the underlying cause of insomnia: a dysfunctional limbic system. The goal of re-origin’s program is to calm the overactive fight-or-flight response and interrupt the faulty neural pathways in the brain that are perpetuating your symptoms.
Using specific neurocognitive exercises, you can get your brain out of “emergency mode” and back to a place of safety, balance, and calm. Once you have retrained your hyperactive, traumatized brain, your inability to fall asleep or stay asleep will naturally resolve.
re-origin’s approach does not chase or mask symptoms, but rather works to rewire the part of the brain that is causing the dysfunction, resulting in long-lasting recovery. The program is easy to follow, self-directed, cost-effective, and takes just minutes a day to implement.
How to Live and Cope with Insomnia
Living with insomnia is brutal—but thankfully you don’t have to. At re-origin, we want to help you recover from insomnia, eliminating the need for coping mechanisms altogether.
Our program involves applying an easy-to-follow, five-step neurocognitive technique to calm the sympathetic nervous system, rewire faulty conditioning in the brain, and create new, functional neural pathways. The key to overcoming insomnia lies in systematically applying our techniques and being persistent and consistent in your efforts. With dedication, repetition, and a good dose of patience, you can change your brain and consequently, your ability to get restful sleep.
Frequently Asked Questions
Insomnia can be either acute (occurring for less than one month) or chronic (occurring for more than one month). Additionally, there are informal terms used by researchers to better categorize and analyze the different ways insomnia can be experienced. These terms include:
- Sleep onset insomnia: Difficulty falling asleep at the beginning of the night
- Sleep maintenance insomnia: An inability to stay asleep through the night
- Early morning awakening insomnia: Waking up well before a person wants to or plans to wake up in the morning
- Mixed insomnia: A combination of problems related to sleep onset, sleep maintenance, and early morning awakenings
- Comorbid insomnia: Insomnia that is believed to arise as a result of another condition, such as physical pain, GERD, sleep apnea, or anxiety
A Final Word from re-origin
- Bhaskar, S., Hemavathy, D., & Prasad, S. (2016). Prevalence of chronic insomnia in adult patients and its correlation with medical comorbidities. Journal of family medicine and primary care, 5(4), 780–784. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5353813/
- Reddy, M. S., & Chakrabarty, A. (2011). “Comorbid” insomnia. Indian journal of psychological medicine, 33(1), 1–4. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3195148/
- Rajmohan, V., & Mohandas, E. (2007). The limbic system. Indian journal of psychiatry, 49(2), 132–139. Availbale From: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2917081/
- Perlis, M., Gehrman, P., Pigeon, W. R., Findley, J., & Drummond, S. (2009). Neurobiologic Mechanisms in Chronic Insomnia. Sleep Medicine Clinics, 4(4), 549–558. Available From: https://www.med.upenn.edu/cbti/assets/user-content/documents/NeurobioinChronicInsomniaInvitedArticle-LichstienEditor.pdf
- Kales, A., Caldwell, A. B., Preston, T. A., Healey, S., & Kales, J. D. (1976). Personality Patterns in Insomnia. Archives of General Psychiatry, 33(9), 1128–1134.
- Basta, M., Chrousos, G. P., Vela-Bueno, A., & Vgontzas, A. N. (2007). CHRONIC INSOMNIA AND STRESS SYSTEM. Sleep medicine clinics, 2(2), 279–291. Available From: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2128619/
- Bjorøy, I., Jørgensen, V. A., Pallesen, S., & Bjorvatn, B. (2020). The Prevalence of Insomnia Subtypes in Relation to Demographic Characteristics, Anxiety, Depression, Alcohol Consumption and Use of Hypnotics. Frontiers in psychology, 11, 527.
- Watson, N. F., Badr, M. S., Belenky, G., Bliwise, D. L., Buxton, O. M., Buysse, D., Dinges, D. F., Gangwisch, J., Grandner, M. A., Kushida, C., Malhotra, R. K., Martin, J. L., Patel, S. R., Quan, S. F., & Tasali, E. (2015). Recommended Amount of Sleep for a Healthy Adult: A Joint Consensus Statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society. Sleep, 38(6), 843–844. Available From: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4434546/