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Addiction and Substance Abuse

Insomnia: How to Get a Better Night's Sleep

Insomnia is the inability to get the amount of sleep you need to feel rested and function well during the day. An estimated 1/3 of Americans suffer from insomnia at any one point in time! Fortunately, the majority of cases are short-term and resolve within weeks. However, up to 20 million Americans complain of problems with chronic insomnia that may significantly effects their life.

Insomnia can usually be divided into two broad categories: trouble falling asleep at the start of the night (also known as sleep-onset insomnia) and difficulty staying asleep during the night (also known as sleep-maintenance insomnia). Some individuals may experience problems with both. Many factors contribute to insomnia and may include one or more of the following; a poor sleep environment (i.e. noisy bedroom, bedroom too bright or too warm), learned poor sleep habits (i.e. watching TV to fall asleep), excessive use of stimulants (both medications and common substances such as caffeine and nicotine), certain medications, stress or anxiety, pain, medical conditions that may make it uncomfortable or difficult to breath well when lying down, heartburn, restless legs syndrome (an irresistible need to move the legs when awake at night) and circadian rhythm disturbances (when the body?s biologic rhythms are out of synchrony or delayed). Occasionally no underlying cause contributing to insomnia can be found and the condition is labeled as ?idiopathic insomnia? or insomnia for which a cause can not be found.

Most cases of insomnia can be managed without the use of sleep-inducing medications. If a specific cause of the insomnia can be identified, then treatment should be directed at that issue. Often times, behavioral therapy can be very effective for individuals whose insomnia is the result of a poor sleep environment, poor sleep habits or psychological conditions. Improving ?Sleep Hygiene? can make a dramatic impact in some cases and these steps are listed below: 

Recommendations for good sleep hygiene:
If you feel you are practicing good sleep hygiene but continue to have problems getting a good night's sleep, discuss your problems with your physician. Referral to a sleep specialist may help in evaluating and treating this condition. 

This material was developed by Addiction Services at Talbot Hall, University Hospitals East, The Ohio State University, and adapted for use on NetWellness with permission, 2010.

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Last Reviewed: Sep 13, 2010

Medical Director of Ohio State University Addiction
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University

Associate Professor of Medicine
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University

Clinical Instructor at the College of Nursing
College of Nursing
The Ohio State University

Clinical Assistant Professor of Family Medicine
College of Medicine
The Ohio State University