insomnia, abnormal wakefulness or inability to sleep. The condition may result from illness or physical discomfort, or it may be caused by stimulants such as coffee or drugs. However, frequently some psychological factor, such as worry or tension, is the cause. Mild insomnia may often be relieved by a soothing activity like reading or listening to soft music. Chronic or severe insomnia requires treatment of the underlying physical or psychological disorder. In a few, very rare cases, individuals in certain families are subject to an incurable inherited insomia caused by prions that form plaques in the thalamus; the disease appears suddenly in adulthood and ultimately is fatal.

Many patients respond to the assurance that their sleeplessness is a result of normal anxieties or a treatable physical disorder. Opportunities to ventilate anxieties often ease distress and helps resume normal sleeping patterns. Elderly persons are encourage to exercise more during the day; instructed relaxation, administration of tryptophan, and intake of warm milk helps some patients sleep. Sedatives and hypnotics drugs may be employed if the sleeplessness is impairing the subject's sense of well being. Those who wake because of pain receive an analgesic at bedtime; for those who experience insomnia accompanied with depression, an antidepressant often suffices.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2013, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Epidemiology of Sleep: Age, Gender, and Ethnicity
Kenneth L. Lichstein; H. Heith Durrence; Brant W. Riedel; Daniel J. Taylor; Andrew J. Bush.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 2 "A Review of Epidemiological Studies of Insomnia and Sleep" and Chap. 5 "An Archive of Insomnia"
Sleep Disorders: Diagnosis, Management and Treatment : a Handbook for Clinicians
Peretz Lavie; Giora Pillar; Atul Malhotra.
Martin Dunitz, 2002
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 8 "Insomnia"
Secrets of Sleep
Alexander Borbely; Deborah Schneider.
Basic Books, 1986
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 6 "'I Didn't Sleep a Wink all Night': Insomnia and Disorders of Sleeping and Waking"
Diagnosis, Conceptualization, and Treatment Planning for Adults: A Step-by-Step Guide
Michel Hersen; Linda Krug Porzelius.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2002
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 11 "Primary Insomnia"
A Cognitive Theory and Therapy for Chronic Insomnia
Harvey, Allison G.
Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, Vol. 19, No. 1, Spring 2005
Presleep Cognitive Activity and Thought Control Strategies in Insomnia
Bélanger, Lynda; Morin, Charles M.; Gendron, Linda; Blais, France C.
Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, Vol. 19, No. 1, Spring 2005
Advances and New Directions
Silvano Arieti; H. Keith H. Brodie.
Basic Books, 1981 (2nd edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 22 "Sleep Disorders: Evaluation and Management in the Office Setting"
Stress and Coping
Tiffany M. Field; Philip M. McCabe; Neil Schneiderman.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1985
Librarian’s tip: "Applications: Anxiety, Depression, Schizophrenia, Narcolepsy, and Insomnia" begins on p. 72
The Role of Acceptance and Mindfulness in the Treatment of Insomnia
Lundh, Lars-Gunnar.
Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, Vol. 19, No. 1, Spring 2005
Women's Mental Health in Primary Care
Kathryn J. Zerbe.
W. B. Saunders, 1999
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 7 "Insomnia"
Cognitive Behaviour Therapy with Older People
Ken Laidlaw; Larry W. Thompson; Leah Dick-Siskin; Dolores Gallagher-Thompson.
Wiley, 2003
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 9 "Insomnia and Sleep Disorders"
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