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Insomnia is a sleep disorder characterized by difficulty or inability to fall and stay asleep under normal resting conditions. There are two types of insomnia: primary and secondary. Primary insomnia refers to sleep problems that are not associated with another health problem, while secondary insomnia refers to sleep problems that occur as a result of another health problem. Possible health problems that can cause secondary insomnia are: asthma, depression, cancer, heartburn, pain, certain medications, or certain substances, like alcohol.

There are also two main variations of insomnia: acute and chronic. Acute insomnia refers to brief sleep disruptions due to life stressors, such as not being able to sleep the night before an exam or other stressful event. Acute insomnia usually resolves itself once the stressor has been alleviated and treatment is rarely needed. Chronic insomnia, on the other hand, is classified by three or more nights of disrupted sleep per week that lasts for at least three months. Individuals with chronic insomnia usually require some kind of treatment to help regulate their sleeping patterns and return them to normal.

Did You Know?

According to the National Sleep Foundation, approximately 30% of Americans have trouble sleeping, with 10% of those individuals exhibiting daytime impairment that could signal insomnia.

woman lying awake at night in her bed

Frequently Asked Questions:


Do I have insomnia?

If you have recently experienced difficulty falling or staying asleep, waking up often during the night and early in the morning, and feel tired when you wake up, then you may be suffering from insomnia. You may also feel excessively tired during the day, be irritable, or have a hard time remembering details and concentrating. If you think you may be affected by insomnia, schedule a consultation with our sleep doctors at Overlake Internal Medicine Associates.


Why does insomnia occur?

Insomnia can occur for any number of reasons. The causes of insomnia generally depend upon whether it is acute or chronic insomnia.

Acute insomnia is most commonly caused by life stress, however it can also be caused by illness, emotional or physical discomfort, changes in normal sleep schedule, and certain medications used to treat colds, allergies, depression, high blood pressure, and asthma. Environmental factors such as light, noise, or extreme temperatures can also contribute to acute insomnia.

Chronic insomnia is generally the result of depression, anxiety, chronic stress, or chronic pain  or discomfort that occurs at night. However, it can also be the result of certain medical conditions or medications used to treat these conditions. Furthermore, factors that cause acute insomnia can contribute to chronic insomnia if they are not addressed.


What treatments are available for insomnia?

Acute insomnia or insomnia that is mild may not require treatment outside of simply correcting your sleep habits and reducing external stressors. Chronic or more severe insomnia that affects your daily life may warrant treatment beyond correcting your sleep habits.

There are a variety of treatments available for insomnia, and finding the right treatment may take some trial and error. Sometimes a combination of multiple treatments works better than any single treatment. The first approach is to determine if your insomnia is the result of another health condition and then treat you for that condition, causing the insomnia to subside.

man taking a sleeping pill before bedAnother possible treatment avenue for insomnia is behavioral therapy aimed at changing behaviors or thought patterns that may be contributing to your poor sleep patterns. Behavioral therapy works on controlling stimuli, relaxation techniques, sleep restriction, and reconditioning techniques to improve your sleep patterns.

Prescription sleep medications may also be prescribed to help you sleep. Generally, these medications are only to be used for a few weeks, but some can be used long term. Prescription sleeping pills include: Lunesta (Eszopiclone), Rozerem (Ramelteon), Sonata (Zaleplon), Ambien, Edluar, Intermezzo, and Zolpimist (Zolpidem).


Can insomnia be cured?

While there is no magical “cure all” solution to insomnia, treatment generally has positive outcomes and some experts believe that insomnia can, in fact, be cured. However, most of these experts also agree that the cure lies in changing your sleep patterns through behavioral therapies, rather than through prescription sleeping medications. Understanding your individual insomnia triggers is the key to combating these triggers and preventing them from causing your insomnia. At Overlake Internal Medicine Associates, our expert sleep doctors can help you address the various causes of insomnia and assist you in better regulating your sleep patterns.


How is insomnia diagnosed?

To diagnose insomnia, our team of sleep doctors at Overlake Internal Medicine Associates will perform a physical and discuss your medical and sleep history. Depending on your case, we may ask you to keep a sleep diary for a week or two to obtain more information on your sleep patterns. We may also conduct a sleep test to monitor your sleeping patterns and make a correct diagnosis.


Who is at an increased risk for insomnia?

  • Individuals over the age of 60: The risk of insomnia increases with age due to changes in sleep patterns, activity, health, and the presence of more medications.
  • Women: Insomnia can occur as a result of hormone changes during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause.
  • People with erratic schedules: If your sleep schedule is constantly fluctuating, you may have trouble establishing a normal sleeping rhythm.
  • Stressed individuals: Constant stress is a key contributor to insomnia.
  • Those with mental health or physical health conditions: Any type of mental or physical disorder affects your overall well-being and ability to sleep.



Woman stretching in the sunlight waking from a night of good sleep

Can insomnia be prevented?

A key way to prevent insomnia is to maintain good sleep habits. Good sleep habits include: establishing a consistent bedtime and wake time, staying active, talking with your doctor about alternative medications that won’t affect your sleep, eliminating or reducing daytime naps, avoid large meals or beverages before bedtime, making your bed and bedroom comfortable for sleep, creating a nightly relaxation ritual, and eliminating substances such as caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine. While this will not guarantee you never experience insomnia, it should significantly decrease its occurrence and help you get a more restful night’s sleep.


Don’t lose another night of sleep! Schedule a consultation with Bellevue’s top sleep doctors at Overlake Internal Medicine Associates today!