Insomnia a common disorder diagnosed and treated by sleep clinics, affecting about 30% of the population. Insomnia symptoms include difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep in the middle of the night, or waking up too early and not being able to fall back asleep. While most people have experienced these symptoms at one time or another due to stressful life events or physical health problems, individuals with chronic insomnia (about 8% of the population) are plagued with sleep problems several days a week for months at a time. Chronic insomnia occurs when sleeplessness is perpetuated by physiologic factors (such as high stress hormones), cognitive factors (worry about not sleeping) and behavioral factors (spending too much time awake in bed). Chronic insomnia can be effectively treated without using prescription drugs; however, some individuals may require a sleep medication. Untreated chronic insomnia may contribute to health problems such as high blood pressure or depression in some, but not all, individuals. The severity of an individual’s chronic insomnia can be determined through standardized scales, at-home testing or with an overnight sleep study.
Care at Milton S. Hershey Medical Center
There are several treatment options for patients with insomnia. The Sleep Research and Treatment Center is one of the few in the country that offers Behavioral Sleep Medicine (BSM) treatments, such as cognitive-behavioral treatment of insomnia (CBT-I), delivered by a board certified sleep psychologist. CBT-I is currently indicated by the American College of Physicians as the first-line treatment for chronic insomnia. This is a face-to-face, time-limited treatment in which the patient learns how to change his/her behavior in respect to sleep and fatigue.
Our clinicians can prescribe medications, such as hypnotics and sedatives, which may help an individual fall asleep and stay asleep. There are multiple medications that can be used to treat chronic insomnia such as so-called Z-drugs (Zolpidem, Zaleplon), benzodiazepines, or sedative antidepressants.
Locations where we treat condition:
Penn State Sleep Research and Treatment Center
1214 Research Blvd., Suite 1159
Hummelstown, PA 17036
Schedule an Appointment: 717-531-8520
Departments that treat condition: Penn State Sleep Research and Treatment Center, a joint service of Pulmonary Medicine and Psychiatry.
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Symptoms, Diagnosis & Outlook
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Difficulty staying asleep
- Early morning awakening
- Daytime fatigue
- Difficulty concentrating
- Anxiety, worry
- Depressed mood
Insomnia is diagnosed based on a patient’s clinical history and report of sleep problems. A comprehensive assessment is completed using standardized patient-reported scales. In some cases, an actigraph, which is a wristwatch-like device that allows clinicians to assess movement and sleep at home, can be used. In specific cases, an overnight sleep study may be required.
Outlook & Prognosis
Non-drug based behavioral sleep medicine treatments are effective in improving nighttime sleep in individuals with chronic insomnia. For some patients with chronic insomnia, a sleep medication may be required.