GinaMarie Guarino, LMHC


Insomnia is a disorder that affects sleep. A person with insomnia will struggle from poor sleep patterns. Some people with insomnia may struggle to fall asleep. Others may struggle to stay asleep through the night.

Insomnia causes issues with fatigue, regardless of how much an affected person sleeps through the night. It causes a person to have low energy and emotional sensitivity. Many people with insomnia will suffer from anxiety and depression as a result of exhaustion.

Insomnia will affect many areas of a person’s life, like:

  • Mental health
  • Physical and medical health
  • Job performance
  • Academic performance
  • Self-esteem
  • Emotional regulation
  • Relationships

Symptoms of Insomnia

A person can experience symptoms of insomnia at any time, but the risk of experiencing insomnia increases with age. Symptoms of insomnia may be related to another mental health or medical condition. It can also exist due to a biological or stress-related issue.

Symptoms of insomnia include:

  • Difficulty with falling asleep
  • Difficulty with staying asleep
  • Waking up periodically during the night
  • Having restless sleep
  • Waking up before dawn
  • Feeling fatigued throughout the day
  • Poor ability to manage stress
  • Irritability
  • Depressed mood
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty focusing

Causes of Insomnia

Insomnia is a common disorder that affects millions of Americans each day. Most people will experience insomnia at some point in their lives. How a person experiences insomnia depends on what has caused the insomnia.

There are three ways a person may experienced:

  • Cyclic Insomnia. Affects a person sometimes, but not all the time.
  • Acute Insomnia. Only affects a person for a few weeks
  • Chronic Insomnia. Has a long-term affect on a person.

Common causes of insomnia include:

Mental Health Issues. Some mental health issues, like anxiety, depression, sleep apnea and PTSD, will cause insomnia.

Poor Stress Management Skills. People who struggle with managing stress may experience insomnia. Triggers for stress may include:

  • Work or school
  • Social or relationship issues
  • Family stress
  • Adjustment to a new or changing environment
  • Adjustment to a life change
  • A change in the affected person’s daily schedule
  • Grief
  • Aging
  • Medical issues

Substance Use. Substance use or alcohol use may cause insomnia by interrupting the sleep-wake patterns of the brain.

Internet or Screen Addiction. Being addicted to gaming, the Internet, or smart phones, tablets and computers may cause insomnia. The constant stimulation of a screen prevents the brain from being able to rest properly.

Caffeine Addiction. Consuming too much caffeine (more than 1-2 cups per day, before 2 pm) will likely cause insomnia.

Medication. Certain medications may cause insomnia as a side effect.

Treatment for Insomnia

There are treatment options available to alleviate the symptoms of insomnia. Medication may or may not be recommended or prescribed by a physician. It may be used as an aid for therapy, but it is important to also learn the skills needed in therapy to manage healthy sleep hygiene. Relying on medication alone is not sufficient for managing insomnia.

Treatment modalities that may be incorporated into therapy for insomnia include:

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. Cognitive-behavioral therapy may be used to teach the affected person how to manage racing thoughts while in bed.
  • Relaxation and Mindfulness Exercises. Mindfulness skills for insomnia teach the affected person relaxation techniques, sleep hygiene skills, and meditative practices that are useful for improving sleep.
  • Dialectical-Behavioral Therapy. Dialectical-behavioral therapy (DBT) may be used to combine mindfulness techniques and cognitive skills for stress management to alleviate symptoms of insomnia.

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