Insomnia is a sleep disorder. It may cause a number of sleep problems including trouble falling asleep, waking in the middle of the night, or waking very early in the morning. It may also be a sleep that is not restful. Insomnia can be a short-term problem, or it can be chronic. Chronic insomnia lasts for more than 4 weeks.

Insomnia can occur for many reasons. Short-term insomnia is often caused by temporary situations or problems with the environment. They may include:

  • A life crisis or stress, including the loss of a life partner, divorce, or loss of a job
  • Environmental noise
  • Extreme temperatures, such as a room that is too hot or too cold
  • Change in the surrounding environment
  • Sleep/wake schedule problems, such as those due to jet lag

There may be no clear reason for chronic insomnia. It may also be due to other medical or psychiatric conditions. Examples of conditions that can lead to sleep problems include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Arthritis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Heart disease
  • Asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Sleep apnea
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) or ulcer
  • Chronic pain

There are steps you can take to improve your chance of a good night’s rest. You may be advised to reduce intake of certain items or avoid them to see if your sleep improves. You may be asked to:

  • Reduce or avoid caffeine, especially late in the day.
  • Reduce or avoid alcohol and avoid drug use.
  • Quit smoking. If you smoke, avoid doing so near bedtime.
  • Avoid eating or drinking close to bedtime.

Your sleep habits can also affect how well you sleep. Steps that may help you sleep better include:

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day.
  • If you must take naps, keep them short.
  • Only use the bedroom for sleep or sex. Avoid watching TV or worrying in bed.
  • Keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature and dark. Minimize disruptions, such as pets.
  • If you work at night and sleep during the day, make sure to block daylight from the room. Decrease the amount of noise. Use a fan to block out noise.

Some people use the herb valerian to reduce insomnia. Others take melatonin.

Quality sleep is essential to both mental and physical well-being.