What is Sleep Maintenance Insomnia?

D. Jeffress
D. Jeffress
A woman with insomnia.
A woman with insomnia.

Sleep maintenance insomnia refers to a difficulty staying asleep for an entire night. People who suffer from the problem can fall asleep normally at bedtime, but they wake up spontaneously in the middle of the night. After waking up, a person may not be able to fall back asleep for several hours, if at all. Sleep maintenance insomnia is usually a temporary problem that occurs during high-stress periods, but for some it can become a chronic nuisance that impairs daily activities and health. An individual who experiences frequent insomnia episodes can try to find relief with home remedies to reduce stress, over-the-counter sleep aids, or prescription medications.

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

There are many possible causes of sleep maintenance insomnia, and identifying underlying triggers can help a person overcome sleepless nights. Stress is a major factor for most people, who may be worried about school work, impending obligations or other life situations. Consuming caffeine, alcohol, or tobacco products, especially near bedtime, can cause a person to stir during the night. Other factors may include eating sugary foods, going to bed at inconsistent times, or starting a new work shift. Some prescription and over-the-counter medications can also induce sleep maintenance insomnia.

Yoga can ease stress, which might help with sleep maintenance insomnia.
Yoga can ease stress, which might help with sleep maintenance insomnia.

If insomnia issues occur more than once or twice a week, the problem is considered serious and may be a sign of an underlying disorder. People who have chronic illnesses or injuries may wake up in pain and not be able to go back to sleep. Restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea can also cause a person to awaken suddenly and in an alert state.

Sleep maintenance insomnia can lead to excessive daytime tiredness, irritability, and problems focusing at work. If insomnia becomes a constant problem, it can begin impairing physical and mental health. People who are unable to get enough sleep often experience weight gain, headaches, and digestive issues. Over time, the immune system suffers which can lead to frequent illnesses and infections. Some people slip into depression or develop serious anxiety disorders due to lack of sleep.

Medical sleeping aids may help with sleep maintenance insomnia.
Medical sleeping aids may help with sleep maintenance insomnia.

A person who experiences occasional sleep maintenance insomnia can try to remedy the problem by establishing better bedtime habits. Avoiding caffeinated beverages and alcohol in the evening helps many people sleep more soundly through the night. It is also important to establish a steady bedtime and a comfortable, relaxing nighttime routine. If stress is a problem, an individual may consider counseling, self-help books, or yoga.

Physicians and psychologists can help people with chronic sleep maintenance insomnia as well. A doctor might decide to change a person's medications or prescribe a sleeping aid to calm the body and brain at night. Behavioral therapy sessions help many people identify the reasons that they cannot sleep soundly and learn how to overcome them. Most cases of insomnia can be cured as long as sufferers are willing to seek help.

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