Insomnia is a persistent sleep disorder that is characterized by difficulty falling asleep and/or difficulty staying asleep. There are two types of insomnia:

  • Primary insomnia: Primary insomnia means that a person is having sleep problems that are not directly associated with any other health condition or problem.

  • Secondary insomnia: Secondary insomnia means that a person is having sleep problems because of something else, such as a health condition like asthma, depression, arthritis, cancer, or heartburn, pain medication or a substance problem (like alcohol).

If your insomnia is short-term it is known as acute insomnia whereas long term is known as chronic insomnia. It can also stop and start again, with some periods of time with no sleep problems. Acute insomnia can last from one night to a few weeks.

Causes of insomnia include:

  • Significant life stress

  • Illness

  • Emotional or physical discomfort

  • Environmental factors like noise, light, or extreme temperatures that interfere with sleep

  • Medications

  • Interferences in normal sleep schedule

  • Depression and/or anxiety

  • Chronic stress

  • Pain or discomfort at night

If you believe you may be suffering from insomnia, you may report of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty falling asleep a​t night

  • Waking up during the night

  • Waking up too early

  • Not feeling well rested after sleeping

  • Daytime sleepiness or exhaustion

  • Irritability, depression or anxiety

  • Difficulty remembering things or paying attention

  • Tension headaches

  • Stomach pain and distress​​

If you are staying awake at night which makes it difficult for you to function during the day, seek help from your doctor at the Mind and Brain Service Line​ at The Aga Khan University Hospital. You can safely and privately discuss your symptoms, gain advice and receive personalized treatment and care.​
Your time with your doctor may be limited, so makes sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here​ are some tips to help get you started.​
Your doctor will begin your diagnosis by asking you a number of questions about your sleeping habits. You might have to fill a questionnaire about these details and may be asked to keep a sleep journal to record how many times you woke up in a night and when.

A blood test may be done to check for thyroid levels or any other physical problems that may be causing insomnia. Testing may also involve monitoring and recording a variety of activities while you sleep, including brain waves, breathing, heartbeat, eye movements and body movements.
Changing your sleep habits and addressing any underlying causes of insomnia, such as medical conditions or medications, can help you to restore restful sleep. If these measures don't work, your doctor may recommend medications to help with relaxation and sleep.

Behavioural treatments can teach you better sleep behaviours and ways to improve your sleeping environment and encourage sound sleep. This is a first step recommended for treatment. Your doctor will educate you about better sleeping habits, having a regular sleep schedule, avoiding stimulating activities before bed, and having a comfortable sleep environment.

Another option is cognitive behavioural therapy. This helps you to control or eliminate negative thoughts and worries that keep you awake. Relaxation techniques such as muscle relaxation and breathing exercises are ways to reduce anxiety before going to bed. These tricks help you to control your breathing, heart rate, muscle tension and mood.

Remaining passively awake is another treatment, aimed at reducing the worry and anxiety about being able to get to sleep by getting in bed and trying to stay awake rather than expecting to fall asleep. Light therapy also works in some cases. If you fall asleep too early and then awaken too early, you can use light to push back your internal clock.

Other than this, taking prescription sleeping pills may help you get to sleep. Doctors don't recommend relying on prescription sleeping pills for more than a few weeks, but several medications are approved for long-term use.
The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.
The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.
The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.
Your doctor and or nurse will give you specific instructions about the prescribed medication. Please ensure that you take or use the prescribed medicine as advised. It can be dangerous to your health if you self-prescribe. Please inform the doctor or nurse beforehand if you have experienced any adverse reactions to any medications in the past. If you experience any symptoms of drug poisoning, overdose or severe reaction please contact the Pharmacy Service at The Aga Khan University Hospital immediately. You can find the contact number of the Pharmacy Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider.