Difficulty sleeping (insomnia) is not a disease. However, it may be a symptom of other problems such as stress, depression, anxiety, pain or prostate problems. Alternatively, it may be a temporary problem of unknown cause. While sleeping difficulty is usually temporary, it may sometimes become chronic.
There is no ideal amount of sleep. Some people need very little sleep and still function well during the day, while others need a lot more sleep. As we get older we generally require less sleep. Elderly people often have no problem getting to sleep, but wake after a few hours. Possible reasons for sleeplessness may include pain, getting up to go to the toilet, going to bed too early, breathing difficulties or snoring.
Many people who have a bad snoring problem may have sleep apnoea, a condition where they stop breathing for a very short time every few minutes during sleep due to their airway being blocked by their tongue and throat. Their brain constantly wakes them to start breathing again, but they are unaware of the constant sleep/wake pattern during the night. Such people may wake up feeling tired and remain sleepy during the day. This problem is common in overweight males.
You can help get a better night’s sleep by:
Also, if you are awake, try not to ‘watch the clock’ in the small hours and don’t lie in bed tossing and turning — if you’re not asleep in 15 minutes try going to another room and doing something relaxing.
You should seek medical advice if:
Last Reviewed: 19 April 2009