Insomnia: the causes, signs and symptoms

14 September 2017

What are the causes, signs and symptoms of the sleep disorder, insomnia? The University of Sydney's Dr Chris Gordon explains. 

There's nothing more annoying than being awake in the middle of the night, feeling desperately tired and not being able to fall back asleep.

If you have difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep for at least three nights per week for three months or more, you may have insomnia.

If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. Up to 10% of the adult population have insomnia. It’s more common in females and the statistic increases with age.

Researcher, Dr Chris Gordon from the Sydney Nursing School at the University of Sydney, discusses his key points to the causes, signs and symptoms of the sleep disorder - insomnia.

Insomnia usually does not have a single cause

There are many reasons and predisposing factors. Some reasons are obvious like; pain, arthritis, gastrointestinal issues, neurological problems and surgery. Other reasons can be subtle like; changes in lifestyle, ageing and family history.

Insomnia isn’t something that only affects you at night

Many people have daytime symptoms like; fatigue, irritability, mood swings and poor concentration.

People with insomnia may have changes in neurophysiological activity in areas of the brain that control executive function, regulate sleep and increased arousal.

Insomnia can increase your risk of chronic disease

Research has shown that people with insomnia who sleep less than 6 hours a night may increase your risk of chronic disease, such as, heart problems, high blood pressure and diabetes. 

Insomnia can be diagnosed by clinical interviews, which may include questionnaires about insomnia symptoms, tests to exclude other conditions, or a sleep study.

We all need seven to eight hours sleep per night for good health and vitality. Your body does some pretty cool stuff while you're recharging at night, so if you are having ongoing difficulty in getting a good night’s sleep, seek help from a health professional.

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