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What is Insomnia?

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that makes it difficult to get enough high-quality sleep. A person with insomnia may try everything from following a strict sleep schedule to designing an ideal sleeping environment with no luck. The longer one suffers from insomnia, the more it will begin to take a toll on their quality of life- affecting their mental and physical health, relationships, safety, and ability to think clearly.

Different people may experience insomnia in different ways. Some may lay awake for hours, unable to fall asleep. Others may find themselves waking-up repeatedly at all hours of the night. Some people wake up too early in the morning and can’t get back to sleep.

When these types of sleep difficulties occur at least three nights a week for at least three months and cause significant distress or problems at work, school or other important areas of a person's life, we call this Insomnia Disorder, and medical attention is often required.

Symptoms of Insomnia

The most telling symptom of insomnia is a struggle to get enough high-quality sleep, no matter what you do. A few symptoms one can watch out for when trying to determine if they have insomnia include:

  • Difficulty falling asleep. Those struggling with insomnia may struggle to shut their minds off to fall asleep. They might find themselves lying awake all night, awaiting the hour they are finally able to fall asleep.
  • Struggling to stay asleep. Some people who struggle with insomnia struggle to stay asleep for long periods. They might wake up multiple times throughout the night or struggle to sleep until morning, preventing them from getting a full night’s rest.
  • Using substances to fall asleep. Some people turn to substances like alcohol or sleeping pills in hopes that they will help them get some sleep.
  • An inability to function correctly. Without sleep, a person may face feel drowsy, groggy, unable to concentrate, and irritable every day.
  • Waking up too early. Some people find themselves waking up way earlier than they’d like to. They then might find themselves feeling exhausted as they go about their day.

Insomnia can cause a vast range of health issues. Our bodies need sleep. When a person is unable to get enough high-quality sleep, their body and mind will begin to suffer, causing or contributing to problems like:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Substance abuse
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease and hypertension

Coping with Insomnia

Fortunately, insomnia is usually a treatable sleep disorder. Pairing treatment from a doctor with healthy lifestyle changes just may be what you need to begin feeling better and getting some high-quality shut-eye. A few lifestyle changes that may get you feeling better include:

  • Creating and sticking to a sleep schedule. Sometimes, a good sleep routine is all a person’s body needs to get some good sleep. So, go to bed at the same time every night, wake at the same time every day, and repeat the routine over again.  
  • Avoid stimulating activities right before bedtime. Doing activities that might leave you feeling stressed or anxious before bedtime might be what is preventing you from falling asleep. Things like watching horror movies, cramming before a big test, scrolling through social media, or getting an intense workout in will make it difficult to sleep.
  • Set the mood in your bedroom. Create a sleep environment that is comfortable for you. If your room is too hot, the environment is too loud or bright, or your bed is too uncomfortable, it will be difficult to fall into a high-quality sleep. Do whatever you need to get yourself as comfortable as possible, whether that be with a sleep mask, earplugs, sound machine, or new mattress.
  • Step away from the screen. Phones, TVs, and tablets give off a blue light that is similar to sunlight, throwing off the body’s circadian rhythm and ultimately making it more difficult to sleep. Set a goal to turn off all screens at least an hour before bedtime to get your body and mind prepared for a good night’s rest.
  • Cut down on alcohol and caffeine. Alcohol and caffeine can both cause disruptions in your sleep cycle, so cutting down where you can benefit you greatly.
  • Avoid napping. If you are sneaking in a bit of shut eye throughout your day, you are really going to struggle to fall asleep at night. If you absolutely must take a nap, try to keep it short and sweet- and make sure it isn’t too close to your bedtime.

How Telehealth Can Help

Insomnia can be a frustrating and exhausting sleep disorder to deal with. It may cause you to feel irritable, fatigued, and unable to function properly. Getting a doctor’s help is extremely important when you are struggling with insomnia. With telehealth, you can talk to a doctor about your sleep concerns from the comfort of your own home, which can help you find the treatment that is right for you without having to change out of your pajamas.

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