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What are the signs and symptoms of insomnia?

Insomnia is a disorder that affects almost 30% of adults, characterised by persistent and ongoing difficulty falling or staying asleep despite adequate opportunities for sleep. Symptoms of insomnia can be debilitating, affecting your day to day life, work, relationships, and long-term health. In fact, while there are many causes and contributing factors, a diagnosis of insomnia hinges on the impact that poor sleep has directly on your ability to carry out day to day activities.

The specific signs and symptoms of insomnia aren’t the same for everyone, and can depend on whether the disorder is experienced as a short-term or chronic condition. Short term or acute insomnia typically lasts for a number of days or weeks, while insomnia is considered chronic if a person  has trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at least three nights per week for three months or longer. 

You don't have to put up with sleepless nights. Simple changes in your daily habits can often help.

Common symptoms of insomnia

  • Brain fog, difficulty focusing or paying attention,

  • Difficulty falling asleep at night

  • Difficulty staying asleep throughout the night

  • Forgetfulness

  • Increased errors or accidents

  • Irritability and mood issues

  • Not feeling well-rested after a night's sleep

  • Ongoing stress or worry about sleep

  • Tiredness or sleepiness during the day despite adequate opportunities to sleep at night

  • Waking up too early

Possible Causes of Insomnia

Insomnia is believed to originate due to a state of hyperarousal that can impact sleep-onset and sleep maintenance. Hyperarousal can be mental, physical, or a combination of both.

Some of the possible contributing factors or causes of insomnia include:

  • Irregular sleep schedules, often caused by travel or shift work

  • Stress, for example stress about work, study, relationships, or even stress about lack of sleep itself

  • Lifestyle factors, such as unhealthy habits, dietary choices, or consumption of drugs or alcohol 

  • Mental health disorders. Conditions such as depression and anxiety can cause or exacerbate symptoms of insomnia

  • Physical illness or pain, causing physical discomfort or preventing you from being able to lie in bed

  • Medication. Some medications can cause trouble sleeping  or other side affects that affect your ability to fall or stay asleep

For some people, a combination of several of these factors can cause or worsen insomnia.

Exacerbation of pre-existing symptoms

Insomnia can worsen pre-existing conditions, or increase the risk of other medical problems, including:

  • Addiction and substance abuse

  • Auto-immune diseases

  • Cardiovascular problems such as arrhythmia and high blood pressure

  • Chronic pain

  • Mental illness, such as anxiety or depression

  • Metabolic and hormonal regulation issues

  • Respiratory problems such as asthma or sleep apnoea

Signs that you need to see a professional

There are signs to look out for that indicate that you should seek professional medical help for a potential diagnosis and for strategies to manage a sleep disorder like insomnia. These may include:

  • Symptoms of insomnia make it hard for you to function day to day or complete everyday tasks

  • Symptoms of insomnia are affecting your relationships or ability to perform at work

  • Symptoms of insomnia are ongoing for several nights, weeks, or months

  • Adjustments to your lifestyle, diet, or sleep routine are not relieving symptoms of insomnia

If sleep disturbance or difficulty falling asleep affects it your daily function during the day, help is available. Our coaching programme has been developed specifically to help people with insomnia using cognitive behavioural techniques (CBTI). You can also seek help from your doctor to identify causes and manage the symptoms.

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