Insomnia Treatment: Sleep Aids and Stimulants

  • Medical Author:
    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Insomnia Pictures: 10 Tips to Avoid Insomnia

Quick GuideInsomnia Pictures Slideshow: 20 Tips for Better Sleep

Insomnia Pictures Slideshow: 20 Tips for Better Sleep

What is insomnia and what causes it?

Insomnia is difficulty falling or staying asleep, the absence of restful sleep, or poor quality of sleep. Insomnia is a symptom and not a disease. The most common causes of insomnia are:

  • medications,
  • psychological conditions (for example, depression, anxiety),
  • environmental changes (travel, jet lag, or altitude changes), and
  • stressful events or a stressful lifestyle.

Insomnia can also be caused by poor sleeping habits such as excessive daytime naps or caffeine consumption and poor sleep hygiene.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine estimates 30% of adults have some symptoms of insomnia, 10% have insomnia symptoms so severe they cause consequences such as daytime sleepiness, and less than 10% have chronic insomnia.

Insomnia may be classified by how long the symptoms are present.

  • Transient insomnia usually is due to situational changes such as travel, extreme climate changes, and stressful events. It lasts for less than a week or until the stressful event is resolved.
  • Short-term insomnia usually is due to ongoing stressful lifestyle or events, medication side effects or medical conditions and lasts for one to three weeks.
  • Chronic insomnia (long-term insomnia) often results from depression, digestive problems, sleep disorders, or substance abuse and continues for more than three weeks.

Transient insomnia may progress to short-term insomnia and without adequate treatment short-term insomnia may become chronic insomnia.

Some of the medications and substances that can contribute to insomnia are:

Insomnia also may be the result of withdrawal from:

Insomnia can also result from poor sleep-related habits (poor sleep hygiene).

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/20/2015
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