Your Guide to Seeking Care for Insomnia: A Review of Treatment Options

Your Guide to Seeking Care for Insomnia: A Review of Treatment Options

This article is for people who have been diagnosed with and/or are living with insomnia, or people who have trouble sleeping at night, and their care partners, or anyone who wants to learn more about insomnia. The goal of this activity is to help you talk to and work with your doctor and healthcare team about ways to help manage insomnia and treatment to help with symptoms.

You will learn about:

  • What insomnia is and its symptoms and complications (additional problems)

  • How insomnia can impact your quality of life

  • Ways to help manage insomnia

  • Talking to your doctor about treatment for insomnia and its symptoms

  • Questions you can ask your doctor and healthcare team

Test Your Knowledge

Insomnia Overview

Insomnia is a sleep disorder where you can have trouble falling asleep (sleep onset), trouble staying asleep (sleep maintenance), and/or wake up too early and not be able to fall back asleep.

Insomnia can happen to most people at some point in their lifetime and may come and go. It can also happen to anyone at any age, but can become more common as you get older.

Many adults can experience acute (short-term) insomnia, often because of an upsetting or stressful event. Acute insomnia typically lasts from 1 night to a few weeks. But when sleep problems happen at least 3 nights a week for 3 months or more, it's known as chronic or long-term insomnia.

Insomnia Isn't Just About Having Sleep Problems

Insomnia can cause symptoms and complications (additional problems) that can affect your mental and physical well-being.

In addition to problems with sleep, insomnia can have symptoms such as:

  • Not waking up well rested or refreshed

  • Feeling tired, sleepy, or drained during the day

  • Lower energy levels

  • Feeling irritable, anxious, or depressed

  • Worrying about sleep

  • Feeling dissatisfied with how good your sleep is (quality) or how much you get (quantity)

  • Trouble paying attention, remembering, or concentrating

  • Making mistakes more easily or having accidents

Complications from insomnia can include problems at work or school, slower reactions (including while driving or operating equipment), and a higher risk of getting or having more severe heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, or depression.

Insomnia and Your Quality of Life

Insomnia can greatly impact your quality of life. It can affect how you function during the daytime and your daily life and impact your energy levels, day-to-day activities, mood and behavior, and relationships. It can even affect your physical health.

So making sure you get enough sleep is important for both your body and brain. Most adults need around 7 to 8 hours a night. Some people can get less and it may not bother them, but losing out on sleep can affect both your physical and mental well-being.

Treatment Is Available

There are ways to help manage insomnia and its symptoms. Let your doctor know if you're having sleep problems, especially if they're affecting your quality of life and making it hard to do your daily activities. Be honest about all the ways that your sleep -- or lack of sleep -- is affecting you. Open communication is key to getting the care you need.

Your doctor can help find the cause of your sleep problems, and together you can make a treatment plan to help manage insomnia and improve your quality of life. If you have acute insomnia, you may not need treatment, but sometimes insomnia can last for years.

Ways to Help Manage Insomnia

When it comes to insomnia, different treatments work for different people. Which treatments your doctor may recommend will depend on several factors, including the type of insomnia and your symptoms, your age and overall health, other health conditions you have and medicines you take, and your lifestyle and schedule.

Ways to help manage insomnia that your doctor may recommend alone or in combination can include:

  • Lifestyle changes and developing good sleep habits or "sleep hygiene," such as by going to bed and getting up at the same time each day, avoiding naps, limiting screen time before bed, and avoiding caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol in the evening

Ways to Help Manage Insomnia (cont)

Other treatments they may recommend can include:

  • Behavioral therapy, sometimes called cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I)

  • Medicines such as benzodiazepine receptor agonists (BzRAs) that include benzodiazepines and non-benzodiazepine sedatives (sometimes called "z-drugs"), dual-orexin receptor antagonists (DORAs), histamine receptor antagonists, or melatonin receptor agonists

If your doctor recommends medicine, be sure to take it as directed. Ask them about when to take it, for how long, and any possible side effects that may happen.

Talking to Your Doctor About Treatment

Let your doctor know about your sleep problems, especially if they're interfering with your daily activities. They can talk to you about different ways to help manage insomnia and its symptoms. The main goals of treatment will be to help improve your sleep quality and quantity and any problems you're having with your daytime functioning because of insomnia.

Keeping a sleep diary can be helpful for when you talk to your doctor. You can track or record your symptoms, sleep patterns, how your sleep problems are affecting you, and how you feel during the day. You can also ask your sleep partner and others in your household about the quality and quantity of your sleep.

Dr Paul P. Doghramji talks about why getting a good night's sleep is important for your health and having the conversation with your doctor and healthcare team.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

Questions you can ask your doctor and healthcare team can include:

  • What may be causing my sleep problems?

  • Are there any lifestyle changes I should make?

  • How can I develop good sleep habits/sleep hygiene?

  • Is there treatment that can help improve my symptoms and my quality of life?

  • What medicines are available, and what are their side effects?

Test Your Knowledge

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You have successfully completed the program Your Guide to Seeking Care for Insomnia: A Review of Treatment Options.

View Additional Materials on this topic that you may find useful:

Sleep and Sleep Disorders

Key Sleep Disorders

Do You Get Enough Sleep?

Tips for Better Sleep

Patient Handout

Authors and Disclosures


Paul P. Doghramji, MD

Senior Family Physician
Collegeville Family Practice
Medical Director of Health Services
Ursinus College
Collegeville, Pennsylvania

Paul P. Doghramji, MD, has no relevant financial relationships.

Clinician Reviewer

Karen Badal, MD, MPH

Senior Medical Education Director, Medscape, LLC.

Karen Badal, MD, MPH, has no relevant financial relationships.


Anita A. Galdieri, PharmD, RPh

Associate Director, Content Development, Medscape, LLC.

Anita A. Galdieri, PharmD, RPh, has no relevant financial relationships.


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