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Insomnia refers to many different types of disrupted sleep. It can be short or long term, depending on the cause, and can impact your everyday life. Check out some suggestions to help you get your much-needed shut-eye.

This can help if:

  • you haven’t been sleeping properly
  • you want to understand why you haven’t been sleeping well
  • you want to know if you have insomnia.
Sleepless boy staring up

Signs and symptoms

Generally speaking, people with insomnia have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Some of the most common symptoms are:

  • having difficulty falling asleep
  • waking up several times during the night and staying awake
  • waking up before your alarm goes off and being unable to go back to sleep
  • suffering from tension headaches
  • not feeling refreshed when you wake up in the morning
  • having poor concentration during the day
  • feeling fatigued throughout the day
  • worrying about sleeping.

People experience insomnia differently, depending on what’s causing it. You may experience some or all of these symptoms.

Types of insomnia

  • ‘Acute’, or short-term, insomnia can be anything from a few nights to a few weeks of bad sleep. It can happen when you’re worried about something, your usual sleep routine is disrupted, or you’re experiencing an emotional problem (such as dealing with a bad break-up).
  • ‘Chronic’, or long-term, insomnia involves having at least three nights of bad sleep per week over the course of a month or longer, and is often due to anxiety, other sleeping problems or even pregnancy.
  • Primary insomnia, also known as idiopathic insomnia, is a more chronic sleeping disorder without a known medical, environmental or psychological cause.

All types of insomnia can have a huge impact on your mood, energy, concentration and functioning.

What causes insomnia?

There are lots of different reasons why you might be suffering from insomnia. In some cases, it can be a symptom of other health issues. Some other causes are:

  • stress related to your work, study or personal life
  • environmental factors, such as the temperature, lighting or noise levels in your bedroom
  • using technology (mobile phone, laptop, tablet, television) right before bed
  • interruptions to your regular sleep routine, such as jetlag or studying late at night
  • suffering from a mental illness, such as depression
  • drug use, including alcohol and caffeine.

How can I improve my sleep?

Start with our guide on how to get a good night’s sleep.

However if you’ve tried all the home remedies and your insomnia doesn’t go away after a couple of weeks, it’s important to get professional advice.

  • Keep a sleep diary. Write down the time you go to bed and the time you wake up. Include details like your mood, and any food, drinks and medications you consumed before bed. After a week or two, try to identify any factors that might have caused you to sleep poorly.
  • Visit your local GP if your sleep is still interrupted, they may prescribe sleep medications which should only be taken temporarily.
  • Get a referral to a sleep clinic that can diagnose any severe sleep disorder.
  • Be referred to a counsellor or psychologist if anxiety, depression or other mental health issues are affecting your sleep.

What can I do now?