Most people find themselves lying awake with racing thoughts at least occasionally. But for chronic insomniacs, the problem is more than just an inconvenience. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 15% to 20% of Americans struggle with a short-term insomnia disorder. And for 10% of the population, insomnia is so common that it becomes a way of life. You might think that sleeping pills are your only option, but doctors are increasingly well-equipped to treat this annoying symptom. And if you experience any of these five symptoms, it's time to talk to a doctor about your insomnia.
1. Chronic Insomnia
Insomnia that lasts longer than four weeks is always cause for concern. Stress, a new sleeping environment, and a host of other annoyances can make it tough to drift off to sleep every now and again. But if insomnia has become a part of your nighttime ritual, it's time to seek help.
2. Neurological Symptoms
Some neurological conditions, especially those associated with an advancing age, produce symptoms of insomnia. Contact your doctor immediately if you have insomnia and neurological symptoms such as:
- Changes in mood or personality
- Increased difficulty managing daily activities
- Trouble remembering people, places, or things
- Difficulty “finding” words
- Changes in speech
- Changes in your ability to understand other people's speech
3. Mental Health Concerns
It's normal to struggle to sleep when you're under stress. But if your anxiety has no clear source or is so overwhelming that it's kept you up for weeks on end, it's time to seek help. Depression, anxiety, and a host of other mental illnesses can interfere with your sleep. Worse still, when your sleep is disrupted, your mental health can deteriorate, exacerbating the condition that initially caused insomnia. Mental illness is treatable, and treatment does not necessarily have to mean medication.
4. Insomnia Interferes With Your Life
It's normal to feel tired after a night spent tossing and turning. But if you are so sleep-deprived that you can't function the next day, it's time to take immediate action. Changes in mood, especially weepiness and anger, are sometimes the product of insomnia. You may also struggle with memory, with staying on-task at work, or with managing stress. Even if you're not struggling, if you routinely get fewer than six hours of sleep a night, it's time to talk to your doctor.
5. Pain Keeps You Up at Night
A stunning 76.2 million Americans are forced to face every day in pain. If it's pain that keeps you up night after night, you're certainly not alone. Living with chronic pain can lead to a sinking sense of hopelessness, but a variety of treatments, ranging from lifestyle remedies to surgery, can free you from the grips of pain. If you've been in pain for more than a week or two, it's time to seek help from a doctor.