By Umair Jamal
Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder in the general population. Patients with this disorder have trouble initiating and maintaining sleep, as well as having impaired waking function. There are two types of insomnia which are short term (acute) insomnia and long term (chronic) insomnia. Acute insomnia could last from one night to a few weeks. Chronic insomnia is when the individual has insomnia for at least three nights a week for one month or longer. About 30-40% of the population is affected by insomnia, 10% of which have chronic insomnia. Insomnia is associated with a reduced quality of life, disorders that are affective, and more health service use. The direct medical costs have been estimated to be $13.9 billion annually. Despite all this, a majority of people who have chronic insomnia remain untreated and lack knowledge about treatment options. 
Some of the causes of acute insomnia include stress (such as job loss, death of a loved one, divorce, an upcoming exam), illness, and certain medications. Chronic insomnia is caused by behavioral factors, or the effects of chronic mental or medical disorders.  
The symptoms of insomnia include having difficulty falling asleep most nights, tiredness during the day, sleepiness during the day, not feeling refreshed after waking up, and waking up several times during the night. Symptoms of insomnia are symptoms of other medical or mental conditions as well. 
Individuals who are at a higher risk of developing insomnia include those who have concurrent depressive symptoms, comorbid medical disorders, or comorbid psychiatric disorders. Insomnia is also common for lower socioeconomic groups and lower income individuals. Insomnia can occur at any age, but the incidence tends to increase with age. There is an association between black race and the prevalence of insomnia. Insomnia also tends to affect women more so than men.      
Psychological-behavioral and pharmacologic treatments have been proven to treat chronic insomnia. By curing or treating a mild form of insomnia, it is important to practice good sleeping habits which can give you a good night’s sleep. 
The following may help improve sleep:
  • Try going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day.
  • Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol late in the day. 
  • Get regular exercise, but not right before sleep.
  • Do not eat a heavy meal late in the day. 
  • Keep comfortable sleeping conditions.
  • Follow a relaxing routine to help you sleep such as reading a book or taking a bath. 
  • Do not use your bed for anything except for sleep and sex.
  • If you are lying in bed unable to fall asleep, get up and do something until you feel sleepy. 
  • By preventing worries, keep a journal before going to bed, and list issues that are worrying you.
About the Author: Umair Jamal graduated from UC Berkeley in 2011 with a major in Public Health. His interests in Public Health include Global Health, Community Health, and Biostatistics. As an undergraduate, he was also a member of the International Health Committee in the CalUPHC. As of now, Umair is doing a post-bac at Berkeley in the Pre-Health professions program. He plans on pursuing medicine in the future.