Difficulty Sleeping

Most people are affected by difficulty sleeping on occasion. The causes include worry, drinking too much caffeine, or insufficient exercise. If you wake feeling unrested but are not aware of difficulty sleeping, the cause may be interruption of breathing during sleep (see Sleep apnoea). Consult your doctor if you have frequent sleeping problems.

  • What kind of sleeping difficulty have you been experiencing?

    • Difficulty getting to sleep

      Do you take sleeping pills regularly or have you recently stopped taking them?

      • Taking sleeping pills
        • Possible cause The regular use of sleeping pills can lead to a gradual reduction in their effectiveness (see Sleeping drugs).

          Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor.

      • Recently stopped
        • Possible cause Withdrawal from sleeping pills can lead to difficulty sleeping as your body adapts (see Sleeping drugs).

          Self-help Follow the advice for getting a good night’s sleep (see Sleep). Make an appointment to see your doctor if difficulty sleeping continues.

      • Neither

        On nights that you have difficulty sleeping, have you consumed any of the following?

        • Large amounts of coffee, tea, or cola
          • Possible cause Consumption of any of these can lead to difficulty sleeping.

            Self-help Follow the advice for getting a good night’s sleep (see Sleep). Make an appointment to see your doctor if difficulty sleeping continues.

        • Large amounts of alcohol
          • Possible cause Consumption of any of these can lead to difficulty sleeping.

            Self-help Follow the advice for getting a good night’s sleep (see Sleep). Make an appointment to see your doctor if difficulty sleeping continues.

        • A late, heavy meal
          • Possible cause Consumption of any of these can lead to difficulty sleeping.

            Self-help Follow the advice for getting a good night’s sleep (see Sleep). Make an appointment to see your doctor if difficulty sleeping continues.

        • None of the above

          Do you have either of the following symptoms?

          • Feeling constantly on edge
            • Possible causes Hyperthyroidism is a possible cause. However, anxiety disorders can also cause these symptoms.

              Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor.

          • Inability to concentrate
            • Possible causes Hyperthyroidism is a possible cause. However, anxiety disorders can also cause these symptoms.

              Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor.

          • Neither

            Are you currently taking any medications, complementary remedies, or recreational drugs?

            • Yes
              • Possible cause Your symptoms may be a side effect of the medication, remedy, or recreational drug.

                Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor. Continue to take prescribed medication unless advised to stop by your doctor but stop taking any other medications, complementary remedies, or recreational drugs.

            • No

              On nights that you have difficulty sleeping, have either of the following applied?

              • You have taken a nap during the day
                • Possible cause You may need less sleep than you think. It is possible that some of the sleep that you need has been taken as naps during the day.

                  Self-help Follow the advice for getting a good night’s sleep (see Sleep). Make an appointment to see your doctor if difficulty sleeping continues.

              • You have been awake for fewer than 18 hours
                • Possible cause You may need less sleep than you think. It is possible that some of the sleep that you need has been taken as naps during the day.

                  Self-help Follow the advice for getting a good night’s sleep (see Sleep). Make an appointment to see your doctor if difficulty sleeping continues.

              • Neither

                How physically active is your usual daily routine?

                • Mainly sedentary
                  • Possible cause Insufficient physical activity in the day can lead to sleeping problems at night.

                    Self-help Build more exercise into your daily routine (see Taking regular exercise). Make an appointment to see your doctor if problems with sleeping persist.

                • Physically active
                  • If you cannot identify a possible cause for your difficulty sleeping from this chart, make an appointment to see your doctor.

    • Difficulty staying asleep

      Are you awakened from sleep by attacks of shortness of breath?

      • No

        Do you have any of the following symptoms?

        • Lack of energy
        • Low self-esteem
        • Inability to concentrate or to make decisions
        • Lack of interest in sex
        • None of the above

          Do you take sleeping pills regularly or have you recently stopped taking them?

          • Taking sleeping pills
            • Possible cause The regular use of sleeping pills can lead to a gradual reduction in their effectiveness (see Sleeping drugs).

              Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor.

          • Recently stopped
            • Possible cause Withdrawal from sleeping pills can lead to difficulty sleeping as your body adapts (see Sleeping drugs).

              Self-help Follow the advice for getting a good night’s sleep (see Sleep). Make an appointment to see your doctor if difficulty sleeping continues.

          • Neither

            On nights that you have difficulty sleeping, have you consumed any of the following?

            • Large amounts of coffee, tea, or cola
              • Possible cause Consumption of any of these can lead to difficulty sleeping.

                Self-help Follow the advice for getting a good night’s sleep (see Sleep). Make an appointment to see your doctor if difficulty sleeping continues.

            • Large amounts of alcohol
              • Possible cause Consumption of any of these can lead to difficulty sleeping.

                Self-help Follow the advice for getting a good night’s sleep (see Sleep). Make an appointment to see your doctor if difficulty sleeping continues.

            • A late, heavy meal
              • Possible cause Consumption of any of these can lead to difficulty sleeping.

                Self-help Follow the advice for getting a good night’s sleep (see Sleep). Make an appointment to see your doctor if difficulty sleeping continues.

            • None of the above

              Do you have either of the following symptoms?

              • Feeling constantly on edge
                • Possible causes Hyperthyroidism is a possible cause. However, anxiety disorders can also cause these symptoms.

                  Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor.

              • Inability to concentrate
                • Possible causes Hyperthyroidism is a possible cause. However, anxiety disorders can also cause these symptoms.

                  Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor.

              • Neither

                Are you currently taking any medications, complementary remedies, or recreational drugs?

                • Yes
                  • Possible cause Your symptoms may be a side effect of the medication, remedy, or recreational drug.

                    Medical help Make an appointment to see your doctor. Continue to take prescribed medication unless advised to stop by your doctor but stop taking any other medications, complementary remedies, or recreational drugs.

                • No

                  On nights that you have difficulty sleeping, have either of the following applied?

                  • You have taken a nap during the day
                    • Possible cause You may need less sleep than you think. It is possible that some of the sleep that you need has been taken as naps during the day.

                      Self-help Follow the advice for getting a good night’s sleep (see Sleep). Make an appointment to see your doctor if difficulty sleeping continues.

                  • You have been awake for fewer than 18 hours
                    • Possible cause You may need less sleep than you think. It is possible that some of the sleep that you need has been taken as naps during the day.

                      Self-help Follow the advice for getting a good night’s sleep (see Sleep). Make an appointment to see your doctor if difficulty sleeping continues.

                  • Neither

                    How physically active is your usual daily routine?

                    • Mainly sedentary
                      • Possible cause Insufficient physical activity in the day can lead to sleeping problems at night.

                        Self-help Build more exercise into your daily routine (see Taking regular exercise). Make an appointment to see your doctor if problems with sleeping persist.

                    • Physically active
                      • If you cannot identify a possible cause for your difficulty sleeping from this chart, make an appointment to see your doctor.

      • Yes

From the 2010 revision of the Complete Home Medical Guide © Dorling Kindersley Limited.

The subjects, conditions and treatments covered in this encyclopaedia are for information only and may not be covered by your insurance product should you make a claim.

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