Trouble Sleeping? Treating Insomnia

Paul Teman, M.D., sleep physician University of Utah Health Care Sleep-Wake Center

On average, adults need 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Infants need about 16 hours of sleep, typically not continuous. Older adults may need less sleep.

What is insomnia?

• Difficulty going to sleep or staying asleep

• It is the most prevalent sleep disorder

• According to the National Center for Sleep

Disorders Research at the National Institutes of Health, about 30-40 percent of adults say they have some symptoms of insomnia within a given year and about 10-15 percent say they have chronic insomnia.

What causes insomnia?

• Increasing age

• Being female

• Medical or psychiatric disorders

• Substance use

• Shift work

• Stress

Common Symptoms

• Insomnia often causes some form of daytime impairment such as fatigue, decreased mood, irritability, or cognitive impairment. People also experience problems concentrating, lack of energy and motivation, headaches, and gastrointestinal problems.

When should you see a professional and seek treatment?

• When symptoms are causing problems in family life or at work, preventing you from meeting daily responsibilities

• Symptoms are persistent, occurring several times a week for more than four weeks

Treatment Options

• Treat underlying causes

o Sleep apnea – If you snore, wake yourself up snoring, or are told you stop breathing in your sleep, a formal sleep evaluation may be helpful as well as a sleep study.

o Restless legs syndrome (RLS) – If you have discomfort in your legs, such as a creepy-crawly feeling associated with a need to move, which gets worse at night, get a sleep evaluation. Medications can be helpful.

o If you are sad or depressed for more than two weeks, you might have clinical depression or major depressive disorder. Talk with your doctor or a mental health provider.

• Psychological or behavioral therapy

• Medications

Tips for getting a better night’s sleep

• Go to bed only when sleepy

• Maintain a regular schedule

• Avoid naps

• Eat a healthy diet and get regular exercise

• Reduce (or eliminate) stimulants such as caffeine,    alcohol, and nicotine

• Have a quiet sleep environment

• Take the clock out of the bedroom (knowing the    time increases the pressure to sleep)

Sleep-Wake Center’s multi disciplinary treatment team
At University Health Care’s Sleep-Wake Center, patients are evaluated by a team of physicians and clinical staff specially trained and certified in the treatment of sleep disorders. They include pulmonologists, neurologists, psychologists, and psychiatrists.

To schedule a sleep evaluation or request more information on insomnia or other sleep disorders,
call University Health Care’s Sleep-Wake Center at (801) 581-3067.

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