It’s 2 a.m., your brain is wide awake and all you can hear is the ticking of the clock.
According to John Hopkins Medicine, 1 in 3 adults will experience short bursts of insomnia known as acute insomnia, while 1 in 10 will experience chronic insomnia, wherein they have difficulty sleeping at least three nights each week for more than a month.
While there can be many reasons for why you are experiencing insomnia (ranging from stress in daily life to adverse medications to a symptom of another disease), there are ways to know if you are truly suffering from chronic insomnia or if you just need to put down the phone a little earlier in the evening.
The Mayo Clinic defines acute insomnia as a short-term condition that often has a specific cause, such as a big test, an important business presentation or a stressful family situation.
Dr. Charles Sweet, a psychiatrist at the Specialty Clinic in Austin, says stress can play a huge role in insomnia.
“If there are increased stress levels, this can disrupt your sleep-wake cycle and cause insomnia,” Sweet says. “Sleep is crucial for the brain and body to replenish and repair. For most people, 7 to 9 hours is optimal to achieve this.”
Acute insomnia often occurs due to a change in environment, whether it be physical or mental stress, or perhaps being a shift worker with no set schedule. Ways to combat this include decreasing stress in your life, perhaps through talking with a therapist or changing any medication that may cause insomnia.
Another way to combat insomnia is to avoid or limit how often you take naps. Napping may start out as a way to catch up on sleep, but it can make your body think it’s time for bed, keeping you from sleeping when it’s actually bedtime.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute defines chronic insomnia as when you have trouble sleeping more than three nights a week for more than three months, with no sign of any other health issues that may cause insomnia (such as medications).
According to an article written by Dr. Richard J. Schwab from the Division of Sleep Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, the four most common sleep disorders are as follows:
It can sometimes be hard to tell whether you actually suffer from chronic insomnia or if you’ve just had a couple of stressful weeks. But if your sleepiness is starting to affect your daily activities, it may be time to seek out the advice of a doctor. They will often ask similar questions pertaining to sleep patterns, medical history, any recent changes in your schedule and more. The next steps may include participating in a sleep study, beginning to take medication such as melatonin or keeping a log to track your sleeping habits.
While insomnia can be a serious concern at times, it can also be managed fairly easily so long as you are aware of what it is and how to go about approaching it. Examine your life, see if there are any recent upheavals and recognize how your body may react to the things around it. Ultimately, insomnia can be something acknowledged and managed.