Check if you have insomnia
You have insomnia if you regularly:
- find it hard to go to sleep
- wake up several times during the night
- lie awake at night
- wake up early and cannot go back to sleep
- still feel tired after waking up
- find it hard to nap during the day even though you're tired
- feel tired and irritable during the day
- find it difficult to concentrate during the day because you're tired
If you have insomnia for a short time (less than 3 months) it’s called short-term insomnia. Insomnia that lasts 3 months or longer is called long-term insomnia.
What causes insomnia
The most common causes are:
- stress, anxiety or depression
- a room that's too hot or cold
- uncomfortable beds
- alcohol, caffeine or nicotine
- recreational drugs like cocaine or ecstasy
- jet lag
- shift work
How you can treat insomnia yourself
Insomnia usually gets better by changing your sleeping habits.
go to bed and wake up at the same time every day
relax at least 1 hour before bed, for example, take a bath or read a book
make sure your bedroom is dark and quiet – use curtains, blinds, an eye mask or ear plugs if needed
exercise regularly during the day
make sure your mattress, pillows and covers are comfortable
do not smoke or drink alcohol, tea or coffee at least 6 hours before going to bed
do not eat a big meal late at night
do not exercise at least 4 hours before bed
do not watch television or use devices, like smartphones, right before going to bed, because the bright light makes you more awake
do not nap during the day
do not drive when you feel sleepy
do not sleep in after a bad night's sleep and stick to your regular sleeping hours instead
Treatment from a GP
A GP will try to find out what's causing your insomnia so you get the right treatment.
Sometimes you'll be referred to a therapist for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
This can help you change the thoughts and behaviours that keep you from sleeping.
You may be referred to a sleep clinic if you have symptoms of another sleep disorder such as sleep apnoea.
GPs now rarely prescribe sleeping pills to treat insomnia. Sleeping pills can have serious side effects and you can become dependent on them.
Sleeping pills are only prescribed for a few days, or weeks at the most, if:
- your insomnia is very bad
- other treatments have not worked
Symptoms of insomnia include finding it hard to fall asleep, waking up several times during the night and feeling tired during the day.
You can help improve insomnia by making changes to your sleep habits, such as having a bedtime routine and not eating or drinking shortly before bed.
Common causes of insomnia include stress, anxiety, too much noise at night, your bedroom being too hot or cold and drinks containing caffeine.
HealthUnlocked contains information from NHS Digital, licensed under the current version of the Open Government Licence