If you often have difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or enjoying a restful night’s sleep, you may be suffering from insomnia. Insomnia is a sleep disorder defined as the perception or complaint of not enough or poor-quality sleep because of one or more of the following:
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Waking up frequently during the night with difficulty returning to sleep
- Waking up too early in the morning
- Non-refreshing sleep
Insomnia can be short-term (acute), lasting from one night to several weeks. It can come and go (intermittent). Or it can last a long time (chronic). Insomnia is considered chronic when it occurs three or more nights a week for one month or more.
Insomnia: what you should know
These are some of the telltale symptoms of insomnia:
- Daytime sleepiness
- Low energy or fatigue
- Anxiety or frustration about sleep
- Attention, concentration or memory problems
Research by sleep specialists at Rush, along with nationwide research, has found that insomnia usually occurs in combination with other factors:
- Medical conditions, such as asthma, arthritis, cancer or heart failure
- The use of certain medications or alcohol
- The environment
- Psychiatric disturbances, such as anxiety disorders and depression
How can I get help for insomnia?
If you experience insomnia that lasts for more than a few days, talk to your doctor so the underlying cause can be identified, if possible, then treated. Your doctor may refer you to the Sleep Disorders Service and Research Center at Rush for further evaluation and treatment.
If you have loud, irregular snoring, jerking legs or pauses in breathing, in addition to other symptoms of insomnia, talk to your doctor. These symptoms may be related to sleep apnea, a potentially life-threatening condition.
Care for insomnia at Rush
Specialists at the Sleep Disorders Service and Research Center at Rush help people overcome insomnia and other sleep disorders. At the center, experts in psychology, neurology and pulmonary medicine work together to develop individualized sleep management plans for each patient.
If your insomnia is due to another health condition, you will need to receive treatment from the appropriate specialist for that condition. Sometimes, addressing the underlying problem will make your insomnia go away or at least make it less frequent.
Your sleep specialist may also recommend one or more of the following:
- Practicing sleep habits that promote optimal sleep (also called “sleep hygiene”), such as having regular sleep/wake times, not using electronics in bed, and avoiding stimulants like caffeine and alcohol before bedtime
- Behavioral therapy
- Prescription medications (for occasional, short-term use only to prevent addiction)
- Relaxation and breathing exercises
- Sleep restriction therapy, which is used to train people to sleep longer and establish better sleep routines
Why choose Rush for insomnia care
The Sleep Disorders Service and Research Center at Rush was the first such center in Illinois and the first in the region to receive accreditation from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (then the American Sleep Disorders Association). Since the center opened in 1978, it has welcomed more than 20,000 patients.