Summary: Insomnia can cause low energy, irritability, forgetfulness, and other symptoms. Insomnia can be caused by a variety of health disorders, so treating it may require finding the root cause. Treatment may involve changing your habits or taking medication.

Everyone might have trouble sleeping occasionally but insomnia can be more serious. If you or a loved one is having sleep problems regularly, insomnia might be to blame. Insomnia is the top sleep disorder in the U.S., according to the National Sleep Foundation.

Acute insomnia only lasts for a short time and is often caused by stress or a specific event. Chronic insomnia may go on for months or even years and may come and go. To be diagnosed with chronic insomnia, you must have sleep issues at least three nights a week for three months.

Types of Insomnia

There are two kinds of insomnia:

Primary Insomnia occurs without any other condition. In this case, insomnia is the central problem that must be diagnosed and treated.

Secondary Insomnia can be linked to another health problem, such as cancer, depression, arthritis, or heartburn. Treatment of the health problem may be enough to reverse insomnia as well. Common conditions often seen with insomnia include:

  • Thyroid disorders
  • Painful conditions like arthritis
  • Neurological conditions like Alzheimer’s disease
  • Disorders that affect breathing, including heart failure and asthma
  • Digestive disorders, especially heartburn
  • Sleep disorders, such as restless leg syndrome

Mental disorders like depression and anxiety can also lead to insomnia. Doctors usually look for these conditions when a patient has insomnia.

Symptoms of Insomnia

When you or someone you love has insomnia, you might have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep. You might also have some of these symptoms:

  • Low energy during the day
  • Difficulty staying awake
  • Anxiety without a cause
  • Irritability
  • More forgetful than usual
  • Problems with concentration and focus

Although anyone can have insomnia, it occurs more often in women and adults over 60. If you see these symptoms in yourself or someone else, talk to your doctor.

Insomnia Causes

Insomnia is often linked to stress. Certain habits might also lead to insomnia. Common causes of chronic insomnia include:

  • Stress due to a busy schedule, upcoming event, or trauma
  • Unhealthy sleep patterns, such as naps during the day or an uncomfortable sleep environment
  • Drinking or eating too much right before bed
  • Traveling or a busy work routine that interrupts your regular schedule
  • Chronic pain or illness that makes you uncomfortable at night

Some medications can also cause insomnia. It is important to talk to the doctor about any medications your loved one might be taking. In some cases, a change in medicine will stop insomnia. Substances like alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco can also cause sleep problems, especially if they are used close to bedtime, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Insomnia Treatment Options

There are different ways to treat insomnia. Many people try lifestyle changes first to help them sleep better. These changes might include creating a more comfortable place to sleep or habits to help your body get ready for sleep. You might avoid foods or drinks before bedtime that could keep you awake. Setting a regular sleep schedule can also have a positive effect on your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Some people find cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a positive insomnia treatment. CBT teaches relaxation and other methods to reduce anxiety. If depression is a cause of insomnia, CBT might be combined with anti-depressive medication for better results.

There are also medications that can be used as an insomnia treatment. Some are used for a short time while others can be taken for longer. Some insomnia medicines can be habit-forming, so they should only be taken under a doctor’s direction. Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) generally doesn’t cover most insomnia treatment medications you take at home. To get coverage for most prescription drugs under Medicare, you will need Medicare Part D. If you stick with Original Medicare, you can get Medicare Part D through a stand-alone plan from a private insurance company. You may also have the option to get a Medicare Advantage plan, which bundles your hospital (Part A) medical (Part B) and prescription drug coverage in one convenient plan.

Caregiver Support for Managing Insomnia

Caregiver support for someone with insomnia can be challenging at times. People with insomnia may be more irritable or have a hard time making decisions. You may remind them to take medication or stick with new lifestyle habits to help them sleep better.

If you are providing caregiver support, it is important for you to take care of yourself too. Make time to do things you enjoy. Enlist help so you can take breaks. Talk to your doctor if the stress of caregiver support becomes a problem.

Insomnia assessment and treatment may be covered by some Medicare plans, such as Medicare Advantage and stand-alone Medicare Part D prescription drug plans.