What is Initial Insomnia?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Initial insomnia, also known as onset insomnia, is a form of insomnia characterized by delays in getting to sleep. People with initial insomnia crawl into bed with every intent of going to sleep, but instead find themselves lying awake. In some cases, the person eventually manages to sleep, while in others, the person may not get to sleep, instead lying awake through the night. This form of insomnia can be associated with a number of conditions, or may occur independently.

Watching TV before going to bed can contribute to insomnia.
Watching TV before going to bed can contribute to insomnia.

Many people know that “insomnia” means that someone is having trouble sleeping, but they may not be aware that there are different forms of insomnia. People may have only one form, or they may experience a mixture of forms. Onset insomnia occurs at one end of the sleep cycle; terminal insomnia happens when someone wakes up too early and cannot get back to sleep. People can also experience middle insomnia, in which they wake up in the middle of the night and stay awake for several hours while they try to sleep.

Initial insomnia causes delays in falling asleep.
Initial insomnia causes delays in falling asleep.

Anxiety and stress disorders often contribute to initial insomnia. The patient goes to bed, but still feels anxious and energized, making it difficult to sleep. The brain may be flooded with thoughts which make it challenging to calm down, and people may also be anxious because of noises they hear. Commonly in insomnia, stress about getting to sleep also contributes, with people trying to force themselves to sleep and finding that this keeps them awake even longer.

Stress can cause initial insomnia.
Stress can cause initial insomnia.

Several treatments are available for initial insomnia. One option is prescription medication which is designed to help people get to sleep. Although not a long term solution, such medications can help people address the immediate tiredness and frustration they experience with insomnia, which may allow them to settle back into a normal sleep pattern. In addition to prescriptions, over the counter drugs are also available.

Prescription sleep aids can be a short-term treatment for insomnia.
Prescription sleep aids can be a short-term treatment for insomnia.

People can also try techniques like modifying their sleep hygiene to see if that helps them sleep more easily. Activities like meditation, scheduling the day to keep the evening relatively slow-paced, and modifying the diet can also sometimes help with initial insomnia. A doctor may have specific recommendations for someone experiencing this sleep disorder. Other things which can help may include keeping the bedroom cool to facilitate sleep, setting a regular bedtime to get the body accustomed to a schedule and a pattern, and wearing ear plugs to cut out interfering neighborhood noise.

Stiff muscles can cause initial insomnia.
Stiff muscles can cause initial insomnia.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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