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Chronic Insomnia: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment

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It is normal for you to occasionally experience difficulty falling asleep at night due to some pressing issues you may be mentally trying to resolve. However, it becomes abnormal if find yourself awake every night and unable to fall asleep; this may be a case of insomnia.

Insomnia is a sleep disorder that commonly affects lots of people globally. With insomnia, you are unable to sleep, no matter how hard you try. The consequences of insomnia can be distressing. After being fully awake all night long, you are bound to experience exhaustion, drowsiness, irritability, anxiety, mood swings, and depression during the day time.

Apart from these side-effects, insomnia makes you prone to developing chronic diseases. Insomnia can be transient, acute, or chronic.

  • Transient insomnia – This type of insomnia occurs when symptoms last up to three nights.
  • Acute insomnia – For acute insomnia, symptoms persist for a number of weeks.
  • Chronic insomnia – Chronic insomnia symptoms persists for months, and even years in severe cases. Most cases of chronic insomnia are triggered by side effects for another medical condition.

In this article, we discuss:

  • Symptoms of chronic insomnia
  • Causes of Chronic insomnia
  • Causes of insomnia depression
  • Chronic insomnia treatment

Symptoms of chronic insomnia

The symptoms of chronic insomnia can affect a person during the daytime and nighttime. It can affect your daily activities. Symptoms of chronic insomnia may include:

  • difficulty falling asleep
  • staying awake all through the night
  • difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or returning to sleep
  • waking up way too early while others are still asleep
  • daytime drowsiness or dizziness
  • irritability
  • mood swings
  • difficulty concentrating on tasks
  • memory issues
  • frequent mistakes and accidents
  • depression

Causes of Chronic Insomnia

A combination of physical and mental factors can trigger the onset of insomnia. In some cases, the causes of insomnia can be linked to medical conditions including asthma, COPD, and heart-related disorders. In transient insomnia, you may occasionally experience inability to fall asleep due to recent incidents. However, with chronic insomnia, it is long-lasting.

Chronic insomnia may be caused by:

  • Hormones – hormonal fluctuations during menstrual period.
  • Circadian rhythm disturbances – This can be caused by extreme temperatures, jet lag, job shift changes, high altitudes, and environmental noise.
  • Psychological disorders – These includes depression, bipolar disorder, psychotic disorders, or anxiety disorders.
  • Medical conditions – Medical conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Angina, acid-reflux disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, arthritis, stroke, brain lesions, tumors, chronic pain, congestive heart failure, and sleep apnea.
  • Other factors – Factors like pregnancy, genetic disorders, overactive mind, and sleeping next to a snoring partner can lead to insomnia.

Additional Causes of Chronic Insomnia

Using of smart phones and laptops in bedroom

The use of smart phones and laptops in bedroom affects your quality of sleep by impacting on your natural melatonin levels. Studies have established that light from televisions and other lighted screens can aggravate insomnia, leading to chronic complications.

Use of certain medications

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) reports that medications like alpha blockers, corticosteroids, ACE inhibitors, statins, glucosamine/chondroitin, SSRI antidepressants, and ARBs (angioternsin II-receptor blockers) can lead to chronic insomnia in some patients.

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Other substances that can lead to chronic depression include:

  • Caffeine
  • Cocaine and stimulants
  • Diuretics
  • Nicotine
  • Alcohol
  • Chemotherapy drugs
  • Stimulant laxatives
  • Cold and allergy drugs

Medical conditions

Long-lasting medical conditions can lead to chronic insomnia. These include:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Anxiety
  • Acid reflux
  • Asthma and other respiratory conditions like COPD and sleep apnea
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Chronic pain
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Menopause
  • Physical and emotional stress
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Urinary incontinence

Insomnia Linked to Depression

Insomnia or oversleeping has been linked to clinical depression. A sleep disorder does not necessarily cause depression; however lack of sleep may trigger the onset of depression. Insomnia is caused by another medical illness or by personal problems which can aggravate depression..

Chronic Insomnia Treatment

Chronic insomnia can be treated using professional and at-home treatment options. To treat chronic insomnia, it will largely depend on the underlying cause of your insomnia and the prescription drugs or therapy to deal with a causal condition.

Your doctor may suggest one or a combination of treatment alternative for chronic insomnia.

Cognitive Behavioral therapy (CBT)

Several studies have indicated that CBT is even more effective in treating chronic insomnia compared to sleep medications. CBT has to do with enlightening you on better sleep habits and educating you to adjust the beliefs and activities that meddle with your sleep.

Some of the strategies of CBT for insomnia includes

  • Cognitive techniques. This involves the use of journal to jot down reservations or fears before going to bed. This may help you resolve them during the day so they wouldn’t impact negatively upon your ability to sleep.
  • Stimulus control. This involves changing behaviors that makes your mind to fight sleep.
  • Sleep restriction. This entails limiting the amount of time you spend in bed. The objective of this therapy is to divest you of enough sleep so that you’re tired at bedtime to sleep sufficiently.
  • Relaxation techniques. Breathing exercises, yoga and guided meditation, can help calm your muscle, breathing, and heart rate while you sleep.
  • Paradoxical intention. This approach involves focus on staying awake in bed instead of expecting to fall asleep. The objective of this method is to reduce risk of anxiety over inability to fall asleep.

Medications for Insomnia

If the above therapies prove abortive in treating chronic insomnia, your doctor may prescribe medications to help you fall sleep. There are risks attached to using sleeping pills over a long period of time. So, most doctors don’t recommend it for long. Some common side effects of using sleep medications for long include forgetfulness, daytime sleepiness, sleepwalking, falling due to difficulty maintaining balance.

Some of the prescription medications that are approved for treating insomnia include:

  • zolpidem (Ambien)
  • eszopiclone (Lunesta)
  • zaleplon (Sonata)
  • doxepin (Silenor)
  • ramelteon (Rozerem)
  • suvorexant (Belsomra)
  • temazepam (Restoril)

OTC sleep aid options may include:

  • diphenhydramine (Benadryl)
  • doxylamine succinate (Unisom SleepTabs)
  • melatonin
  • valerian root
  • chamomile tea

It is best to consult your doctor before taking any over-the-counter sleeping pills or natural remedies. There are also side effects attached to these medicines, so ensure you get advice from a professional health care provider.

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Chronic Insomnia: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment. (2021, September 23). Edubirdie. Retrieved October 3, 2022, from
“Chronic Insomnia: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment.” Edubirdie, 23 Sept. 2021,
Chronic Insomnia: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 3 Oct. 2022].
Chronic Insomnia: Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2021 Sept 23 [cited 2022 Oct 3]. Available from:
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