Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that can result to daytime sleepiness, lethargy, and a general feeling of being unwell both mentally and physically. Most adults have experienced insomnia or sleeplessness at one time or another in their lives.

It is reported that between 10% and 30% of adults have insomnia at any given point in time and up to half of people have insomnia in a given year.

Three types of insomnia are:

  1. Transient insomnia – occurs when symptoms last from a few days or weeks.
  2. Acute insomnia – also called short-term insomnia. Symptoms persist for several weeks.
  3. Chronic insomnia – this type lasts for months, and sometimes years. According to the National Institutes of Health, the majority of chronic insomnia cases are secondary, meaning they are side effects or symptoms resulting from another primary problem.


Some common causes of insomnia are;

  1. Stress both physical and emotional. For example; job loss or change, death of a loved one, divorce, moving.
  1. Illness or conditions Conditions such as chronic pain, heart failure, hyperthyroidism, heartburn, restless leg syndrome, menopause.
  2. Environmental factors such as noise, light, or extreme temperatures (hot or cold) that interfere with sleep
  3. Some medications (for example those used to treat colds, allergies, depression, high blood pressure, and asthma) may interfere with sleep
  4. Interferences in normal sleep schedule (jet lag or switching from a day to night shift, for example)


Possible symptoms of Insomnia include:

  1. Sleepiness at daytime.
  2. Low energy.
  3. Depression.

Prevention of insomnia can be achieved by;

  1. Create a restful and peaceful sleeping environment
  2. Endeavour to sleep on a comfortable bed
  • Keep regular sleep hours
  1. Reduce the intake of caffeine in tea, coffee, energy drinks or coals
  2. Engage in regular physical activity such as swimming or walking to relieve tension built up over the day
  3. Avoid eating or drinking too much food and alcohol, it can distrupt your sleep later on in the night
  • Avoid smoking; nicotine is a stimulant
  • Always try to relax your mind and body before going to bed
  1. Switch off cell phones, laptops, ipads, Tvs and all light emitting devices to get a good night’s sleep
  2. Take a shower before going to bed


Diagnosis is based on sleep history, medical and physical examination to look for underlying causes.

Basic treatment for insomnia is Sleep hygiene (consistent bedtime, exposure to sunlight, a quiet and dark room) and lifestyle changes (regular physical activity and dietary changes).

Compiled by: Victoria Haruna, BSc. (Biochem), MPH (Health Promotion and education)



  1. Wilson, JF (2008). “In the clinic. Insomnia.”. Annals of Internal Medicine. 148 (1): ITC13–1–ITC13–16. Doi:10.7326/0003-4819-148-1-200801010-01001. PMID 18166757.
  2. How Is Insomnia Diagnosed?. 2011.
  3. Roth, T. (2007). “Insomnia: Definition, prevalence, etiology, and consequences”. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. 3 (5 Suppl): S7–10. PMC 1978319. PMID 17824495.
  4. Wilson, JF (2008). “In the clinic. Insomnia.”. Annals of Internal Medicine. 148 (1): ITC13–1–ITC13–16. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-148-1-200801010-01001. PMID 18166757.

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