Having insomnia means you often have trouble falling or staying asleep. It may be hard for you to go back to sleep if you wake up in the middle of the night. It may be a problem for just a short while or for a long time.
Insomnia affects 1 in 3 adults every year in the US. It is more often a problem for older adults than younger adults. Many older adults have some trouble going to sleep or staying asleep. Older adults are also more likely to have other sleep problems such as restless legs syndrome or sleep apnea.
As you get older, you may find that you spend more time in bed but the same or less time asleep. You may tend to go to sleep earlier in the evening and wake up earlier in the morning. You may wake up more often during the night. When you are sleeping, you may not have as much deep and refreshing sleep as you used to.
Problems with sleep may be just the result of getting older or having poor sleeping habits. Examples of poor sleep habits are long daytime naps, trying to sleep in noisy surroundings, or eating or working in bed before sleeping. A change in work hours or travel can also affect your sleep patterns.
Sometimes trouble sleeping can result from:
Chronic illness, pain, or other problems can cause insomnia. For example:
Some medicines can interfere with sleep. Ask your healthcare provider whether any of your medicines may cause problems with sleep.
Your healthcare provider will ask about your:
Your provider may ask your spouse, bed partner, or other family member about your sleep habits. You may also have a physical exam and blood tests.
You may be asked to write down the following when you get up each morning:
Your healthcare provider may suggest that you spend a night in a sleep center. At the sleep center your breathing, eye movements, muscle tone, blood oxygen levels, heart rate and rhythm, and brain waves may be recorded while you sleep.
Your provider may recommend relaxation techniques, changes in diet, and a generally healthy lifestyle that includes exercise. Your provider also will probably recommend a regular sleep routine.
Less daytime napping and more relaxing evening activities will improve your sleep.
Counseling may help you deal with psychological problems or reduce stress that may cause or contribute to your insomnia.
If a medical problem is causing your insomnia, your provider will treat you for it.
If drug or alcohol abuse is the cause of your insomnia, you will need to stop using these substances.
In some cases, a medicine may be prescribed to help you sleep. Do not take any sleep medicine, including nonprescription pills, without your healthcare provider’s approval. Some sleeping medicine can be addictive. Your healthcare provider will work with you to choose the right medicine.
Often insomnia lasts for just a few nights. If you cannot sleep almost every night for 2 weeks, tell your healthcare provider. Insomnia that lasts this long usually keeps being a problem until the cause is found and treated.