Insomnia: what it is, causes, symptoms and treatments

Insomnia: what it is, causes, symptoms and treatments

Difficulty falling asleep or falling back asleep, irritability, fatigue, are some of the symptoms of insomnia. Let's find out the causes and treatments of this disorder together

It happens to everyone to spend one or more sleepless nights and even just the memory is not so pleasant: you toss and turn in bed, try to get up trying to take your mind away from anxieties and problems. Despite this, there is often no way to fall asleep. Not to mention the "morning after" effects, such as tiredness, drowsiness, difficulty concentrating, which are the masters.

But there is insomnia and insomnia as there are different forms, each with its own specificities. So let's see how to recognize insomnia, what are the causes and possible treatments.


  • What is that
  • Symptoms
  • Causes
  • How many hours of sleep are needed
  • What to do if you can't sleep
  • Care

What is that

Insomnia is a very frequent sleep disorder in the population. It can affect men, women, the elderly and children alike, although it is more common among adults (especially women) and its frequency increases with advancing age. In addition, insomnia is often related to other disorders, especially of a psychological nature. In fact, several studies have shown how this sleep disorder can anticipate the onset, for example, of anxiety or depressive episodes.

Although insomnia can reveal itself in different ways, a distinction can be made between:

  • insomnia linked to difficulty falling asleep. It can occur for example due to external factors such as jet lag or irregular working hours;
  • insomnia linked to the difficulty in getting back to sleep. This is more common in older people, as well as those who suffer from sleep apnea, or consume substances including alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, just before going to bed.


Among the most common signs of insomnia are:

  • difficulty falling asleep at night;
  • nocturnal awakenings;
  • difficult waking up from not getting enough sleep;
  • poor concentration;
  • anxiety;
  • headache;
  • irritability;
  • mood changes;
  • lack of energy;
  • drowsiness.

These are symptoms that are therefore felt immediately (during the night itself) and in the following days, as they affect daily life on a personal and working level.

For a correct diagnosis of insomnia it is important to evaluate all the symptoms, check if at the same time there are mental disorders not related to sleep or related to other sleep disorders or other medical conditions. Finally, it is necessary to understand whether:

  • symptoms persist for at least one month, but less than 3 months (episodic insomnia disorder);
  • symptoms last for at least 3 months or more (chronic insomnia disorder);
  • 2 or more episodes occur within a year (recurrent insomnia disorder).


Insomnia is caused by a state of hyper arousal that can affect sleep and its maintenance. A series of factors of a mental, environmental, physical nature (as well as a combination of them) can play a decisive role, including:

  • health problems or conditions of various kinds that do not allow a good rest. Some examples are: enlarged prostate, pregnancy, sleep apnea, heart disease, diabetes, menopause, chronic pain in one or more parts of the body;
  • behavioral or mental health disorders. Stress, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder can in fact contribute to the onset of insomnia;
  • bad sleep habits. Examples are: not having a time to go to bed every day, sleeping during the day, being exposed to electronic devices shortly before going to sleep, excessive noise / light in the room;
  • intake of substances that negatively affect sleep. For example some drugs, alcohol, caffeine, tobacco.

How many hours of sleep are needed

Sleeping well is essential for the proper functioning of the body and this regardless of age. On the other hand, sleep regenerates and strengthens every part of the body, as well as facilitating the rest of the mind. However, to obtain these benefits, it is necessary to sleep for several hours and the number of them varies according to the age and health conditions of the person. According to the guidelines of the National Sleep Foundation, a healthy individual should sleep:

  • between 7 and 9 hours per night (adults);
  • between 9 and 11 hours per night (children aged 6 to 13);
  • from 8 to 10 hours per night (children aged 14 to 17);
  • from 7 to 8 hours a night (over 65).

What to do if you can't sleep

To fall asleep or fall asleep more easily, you can try to apply these 5 tricks:

  • avoid turning on electronic devices. It might seem a good way to make time pass faster, in reality the blue light coming from screens such as tablets or cell phones, does nothing but inhibit the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep cycles;
  • do not stare at the clock on the bedside table. It has the opposite effect, that is, it causes further anxiety that does not induce sleep;
  • eliminate possible sources of noise or light from the room. They do nothing but cause annoyance and disturb good sleep;
  • getting out of bed. Changing rooms and engaging in relaxing activities, such as reading a book, helps to distract the mind. This will make it easier to fall asleep;
  • create a comfortable environment. First of all it is good to choose a mattress and a pillow that are comfortable and comfortable. In addition, before going to bed it is preferable to make sure that the temperature inside the room is neither too hot nor too cold.
  • Care

    The treatment of insomnia mainly involves the use of cognitive-behavioral therapy. This includes:

    • psychoeducational interventions on sleep hygiene (avoid meals just before bedtime, limit the intake of exciting substances, follow a lifestyle and a healthy diet);
    • relaxation and cognitive therapy techniques;
    • behavioral techniques. These include sleep restriction which aims to make the time spent in bed coincide with the actual time of sleep and stimulus control, or to eliminate the association of the bed with activities that are not related to sleep.

    In some cases, some drugs may be administered.

    In mild insomnia, natural remedies such as valerian, lemon balm, chamomile and passion flower can also help.

    In general, therefore, insomnia is a very widespread sleep disorder that can occur for various reasons. Sleeping well and enough is essential for our body, but also to be able to face the days in the best possible way. For this reason, it is good to monitor the symptoms when they appear and if they persist, talk to your doctor to learn more.

    Read also

    • Covid-19, so the pandemic has changed our sleep
    • Valerian: properties, effects and how to take it
    • Sleep apnea: symptoms and risks for the heart
    • Sars-CoV-2 and insomnia, because we sleep little and badly
    • Solar time, Coldiretti's sleep-saving diet

    Tag: Insomnia

    Category: Health
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