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What is Insomnia?

“It appears that every man’s insomnia is as different from his neighbors as are their daytime hopes and aspirations.”
-F. Scott Fitzgerald
American short story writer, novelist, and author of The Great Gatsby

“Finish each day before you begin the next, and interpose a solid wall of sleep between the two.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
American Transcendentalist, poet, philosopher and essayist during the 19th century

The medical definition of insomnia is: trouble falling asleep, staying asleep through the night, or waking up too early in the morning. In simpler terms, it means a poor quality of life for the patient, all of his close family, all that are at work with him, and all that are close to him in other settings. In this case, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s quote illustrates the way Insomnia can affect a person differently, even though many of us generalize Insomnia as “not-sleeping” only. For some, it is the way they feel about themselves when they relate to others or the way it affects them physically. For their family, it is how they perceive the way the patient treats them; since lack of sleep can affect mood, the patient might be irritable and emotionally mistreat his family, which leads in most cases to deterioration of relationships in the family between partners, sons, and or daughters. In the work setting, the patient could present lack of concentration of a decrease in performance, which affects the patient’s self-worth and the relationship with co-workers. Every person that interacts with a patient in other settings can affect, in multiple ways, how the patient feels about his Insomnia; the way the responds or behaves can impact the relationship that others have with the patient. Therefore, no single patient has the same Insomnia as another patient that has Insomnia.

Will there be an end to Insomnia? Episodes of Insomnia may come and go or be long-lasting. What can be done to sleep more hours? The quality of your sleep is as important as how much sleep you get. Remember, it is the quality of your sleep that determines the way you react to environment and the way your environment reacts to you. The important factor is that you feel quality of sleep regardless of the amount of hours you sleep.

Various health factors may also lead to trouble sleeping and insomnia:

  • Pregnancy
  • Physical pain or discomfort
  • Waking up at night to use the bathroom, common in men with enlarged prostate
  • Sleep apnea
    • With age, sleep patterns tend to change. Many people find that aging causes them to have a harder time falling asleep, and finding that they wake up more often.


The most common complaints or symptoms in people with insomnia are:

  • Trouble falling asleep on most nights
  • Feeling tired during the day or falling asleep during the day
  • Not feeling refreshed when you wake up
  • Waking up several times during sleeping hours

People who have insomnia are sometimes consumed by the thought of getting enough sleep. But the more they try to sleep, the more frustrated and upset they get, and the harder sleep becomes.

Lack of restful sleep can:

  • Make you tired and unfocused, making daily activities hard to do.
  • Put you at risk for auto accidents. If you are driving and feel sleepy, pull over and take a break.


Sleep habits we learned as children may affect our sleeping behavior as adults. Poor sleep, or lifestyle habits, that may cause, or worsen, insomnia include:

  • Going to bed at a different time each night
  • Daytime napping
  • Poor sleeping environment, such as too much noise or light
  • Spending too much time in bed while awake
  • Working evenings or night shifts
  • Not getting enough exercise
  • Using the television, computer, or a mobile device in bed

The use of some medicines and drugs may also affect sleep, including:

  • Alcohol or other drugs
  • Heavy smoking
  • Too much caffeine throughout the day or drinking caffeine late in the day
  • Getting used to certain types of sleep medicines
  • Some cold medicines and diet pills
  • Other medicines, herbs, or supplements

Physical, social, and mental health issues can affect sleep patterns, including:

  • Bipolar disorder
  • Feeling sad or depressed
    • (Often, insomnia is the symptom that causes people with depression to seek medical help.)
  • Stress and anxiety, whether it is short-term or long-term. For some people, the stress caused by insomnia makes it even harder to fall asleep.


The patient needs to be asked about his current medications, drug use, and medical history. The patient needs to be open and sincere about the information. Usually, these are the only methods needed to diagnose insomnia, if the patient is forthcoming with the answers. When the patient minimizes or hides the information due to shame or other reasons, it can make it difficult, or nearly impossible, to treat the underlying cause of Insomnia, and can delay an appropriate treatment plan.


Not getting 8 hours of sleep every night does not mean your health is at risk. Different people have different sleep needs. Some people do fine on 6 hours of sleep a night. Others only do well if they get 10 to 11 hours of sleep a night.

Treatment often begins by reviewing any drug or health problems that may be causing or worsening insomnia, such as:

  • Enlarged prostate gland, causing men to wake up at night
  • Pain or discomfort from muscle, joint, or nerve disorders

You should also think about your lifestyle and sleeping habits that may affect your sleep. This is called “sleep hygiene.” Making some changes in your sleeping habits may improve or solve your insomnia. Some people may need medicine to help with sleep for a short period of time. But in the long run, making changes in your lifestyle and sleeping habits is the best treatment for problems with falling and staying asleep.

  • Most over-the-counter (OTC) sleeping pills contain antihistamines. These types of medicines are commonly used to treat allergies and your body becomes used to them.
  • Sleep medicine, called “hypnotics,” can be prescribed by your provider to help reduce the time it takes to fall asleep.
  • Medicine used to treat anxiety or depression can also help with sleep.
  • Different methods of talk therapy may help you gain control over anxiety or depression.

The quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson illustrates the point that I want to leave with the reader. We need a good night of sleep as a ‘wall’ that closes out the end of each day to begin a new day refreshed by feeling rested. To build a wall, the patient needs knowledge, tools, resources and help. We at Mindful Behavioral Healthcare have the knowledge and experience to give the patient tools and resources to guide in the construction of a strong wall of sleep. The hope is to allow our patients to divide the days properly, instead of feeling that each day is endless due to Insomnia. The patient might feel that Insomnia is a struggle, but remember, a wall is easier to build with help than it is to build a wall alone.

If you believe that you or a loved one may be suffering from Insomnia, or any other condition affecting your life, please contact us at Mindful Behavioral Healthcare to make an appointment with one of our professionals. We care about patient’s mental wellness and strive to provide quality services in order to ensure the best possible treatment, according to our patient’s particular needs.


Contact Us Today! (407) 846-0533

Miguel Meléndez, MD, MHSA

Primary Care Physician

Reference: Medline Plus

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