Certain lifestyle changes can help alleviate acute insomnia, but medical attention may be necessary for chronic cases.
In many cases, insomnia can go away on its own. Identifying the root cause, if possible, and taking steps to address it are key.
If you’re unable to pinpoint a specific cause — like a big project at work or a difficult conversation that’s keeping you up at night — improving your overall sleep hygiene may still be beneficial.
But if your symptoms don’t improve within a couple of weeks, it may be time to talk with a doctor or other healthcare professional. They can recommend over-the-counter sleep aids or prescribe medication to help you sleep.
If your insomnia lasts under 3 months, it’s considered acute, or short term.
Acute insomnia is typically in response to a specific trigger, like drinking caffeine late in the day, or a stressor, like a noisy neighbor upstairs.
Insomnia that lasts longer than 3 months is considered chronic, or long term.
Although chronic insomnia is often associated with other underlying health conditions, it could also result from an initial disruption in your sleep-wake schedule.
Many mental, physical, or environmental changes can cause insomnia. Many people will experience acute insomnia at some point throughout their life.
Common circumstantial causes include:
- an inconsistent sleep schedule
- drinking caffeine or alcohol in the evening or before bed
- smoking cigarettes, vaping nicotine, or using other nicotine products at night
- uncomfortable changes to your sleep environment, including noise levels, lighting, and overall temperature
- working nights or having a rotating shift schedule
- adjusting to a new job or living situation
- jet lag after traveling
Some mental health conditions can contribute to insomnia, such as:
You may also be more likely to experience insomnia if you have:
Good sleep hygiene can help promote a good night’s rest. Insomnia usually improves if you can adopt good sleep habits.
Start by creating a nighttime routine. Take a bath, read, or meditate before bed. Avoid electronics like TVs, tablets, and smartphones, as the blue light emitted from these devices signals the brain to stay alert instead of wind down.
Limit caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine use before bed. Stimulants will promote alertness, which is the opposite of what you want at night.
Try to avoid big meals and heavy conversations before bedtime. Nothing good usually comes from either. You also want to avoid high intensity workouts close to bedtime. Post-gym adrenaline can linger for hours, keeping you awake late into the night.
Give yourself a schedule and stick to it as best as you can. If you have a restless night, don’t lie around trying to recover those lost hours. Getting out of bed will reinforce your sleep schedule, so try to get up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
Over-the-counter sleep aids like melatonin are also an option. Sleep aids are a temporary fix for insomnia. They are not meant to be a long-term solution.
Be sure to consult a healthcare professional (like the pharmacist at Walgreens or CVS) before taking a new supplement or medication. They can help determine whether your desired sleep aid will interact with other medications or cause daytime drowsiness.
In some cases, prescription medication, like trazodone, may help. Cognitive behavioral therapy can also help improve your relationship with sleep.
Will you eventually sleep with insomnia?
Yes, you will eventually fall asleep, even if you do not take any intentional steps to do so. Your body can only stay awake for so long before succumbing to exhaustion.
What’s the longest case of insomnia?
On January 8, 1964, Randy Gardner set a world record by intentionally staying awake for 264 hours (11 days). This experiment had a lasting impact on his overall health.
How long does it take for insomnia to go away?
Insomnia can last a few nights, a few years, or a lifetime, depending on what’s causing the condition. Temporary changes can cause acute insomnia until your body adjusts. Chronic insomnia may require more work to get under control.
Adopting good sleep habits is the easiest way to tackle insomnia. Make sleep a priority, and be sure to keep a diary of what’s keeping you up if it becomes severe. A clinician can use this information to help treat your condition and get your sleep schedule back on track.
In many cases, insomnia can go away with a commitment to positive sleep habits and a little detective work. Pinpointing the exact cause and taking steps to change it is the best way to treat the condition.
Ongoing insomnia may be a symptom of another underlying health condition or a side effect of certain medications. If you find yourself awake for several nights in a row or have symptoms that do not improve within a couple of weeks, talk with a doctor or other healthcare professional.
Catasha Gordon is a sexuality educator from Spencer, Oklahoma. She’s the owner and founder of Expression Over Repression, a company built around sexual expression and knowledge. You can typically find her creating sex education materials or building some kinky hardware in a fresh set of coffin nails. She enjoys catfish (tail on), gardening, eating off her husband’s plate, and Beyoncé. Follow her everywhere.