Insomnia is a disorder that means a person has difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep. Some people have trouble with both.
While everyone has a bad night every now and then, if you’re having trouble sleeping on a regular basis, it’s best to see a doctor.
Our online doctors will discuss your symptoms with you, identify the underlying cause for your insomnia and recommend the most effective treatment.
While most people think of insomnia as not being able to sleep, the symptoms can be more complicated than that. The following symptoms can all be a warning sign of insomnia:
Trouble falling asleep
Waking up frequently and not being able to get back to sleep
Waking up much earlier than you need to
Not feeling refreshed when you wake up
Feeling irritable during the day
Not being able to concentrate
These symptoms can be acute (short term) or chronic (long term). If left untreated, both can lead to:
Arguments with family or friends
Poor performance at work
Lack of a social life
Near constant bad mood
Your tiredness can also have an impact on others. For example, your risk of accidents while driving is increased. For that reason, it’s very important to see a doctor about your symptoms as soon as possible if you’re unable to get the recommended 7-9 hours of a sleep a night.
Insomnia has a wide variety of possible causes. Identifying what’s causing your sleep problems is an essential step towards finding the most effective treatment for you. Dealing with the underlying cause is often the best way to make insomnia go away.
Here are some of the possible causes of insomnia:
Mental health issues are a common cause of both short and long term insomnia. Not being able to sleep is just one of the symptoms of these conditions, so it’s really important to get the help you need if you're experiencing:
In rare cases, insomnia can be an early sign of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.
While insomnia is a sleep disorder in itself, it can sometimes be triggered by other problems with your sleep, such as:
Snoring - this can be a sign of a serious sleep disorder known as sleep apnoea.
Other sleep disorders such as nightmares, sleepwalking or narcolepsy.
A poor sleep environment - too much light or noise, your room being too hot or cold, using electronic devices in bed, allowing pets to share your room or sleeping in an uncomfortable bed can all make it difficult to sleep.
Certain factors that you might not think are linked to sleep can increase your likelihood of insomnia, including:
Drinking caffeine close to bedtime
Eating too much before going to bed
Exercising too close to bedtime
Sometimes a problem with your physical health can have an impact on your ability to sleep properly.
Heart problems can make it hard to breathe when you lie down.
If you have to travel abroad a lot for work, moving between time zones all the time can mess with your sleeping pattern and lead to insomnia. The same thing can happen if you work irregular shift patterns.
Get even more information about the potential causes of insomnia here.
While there’s no single test for insomnia, our doctors can ask you a series of questions to help diagnose your sleep problems.
They will want to know about your sleep habits and will likely ask a range of questions about your lifestyle, too. Everything you share with our doctors is confidential and no recording of your consultation is kept. You might be asked:
What time you usually go to bed
What time you usually get up (note that for many insomniacs, this may be different to the time that you wake up)
Whether there is anything that could distract you from sleep, such as street noise, bright lights, your room being too hot or too cold
Whether you’re currently experiencing stress or anxiety
Whether you smoke
Whether you drink alcohol (and if so, how much)
How often you exercise, and when
Whether you’re taking any medication
To help our doctors confirm your diagnosis, they might ask you to keep a sleep diary for a week or two. This would involve recording:
Insomnia can affect anyone at any time, but it’s thought to be more common in older people.
As we’ve seen, insomnia has many possible causes. Identifying this cause will influence the treatment our doctors suggest. They might decide that a simple lifestyle change will help with your symptoms, while they can also prescribe medication or refer you to a specialist where necessary.
Our doctors can:
Treat mental health conditions using CBT or medication.
Provide advice that will help you correct issues that are disrupting your sleep, such as suggesting an eye mask to block out light or changing your mattress to make your bed more comfortable.
Treat sleep disorders such as sleep apnoea, sleepwalking, nightmares or narcolepsy.
Suggest changes to your lifestyle, such as giving up smoking, cutting down on alcohol and avoiding caffeine too close to bedtime.
Treat physical health problems such as joint pain, allergies or heart and respiratory problems. This could be anything from medication to referring you for specialist treatment.
What we can’t prescribe
Our doctors will always have your best interest in mind and recommend the treatment that they think is the most suitable.
Please note that they can’t prescribe zopiclone or sleeping tablets.
Insomnia in pregnancy
During pregnancy, your body undergoes a lot of changes. Some of these can make it harder to get to sleep at night. Insomnia in pregnancy can be caused by:
Hormonal changes - especially during the first trimester.
Having to get up in the night due to morning sickness, or needing to go to the toilet.
Difficulty getting comfortable, particularly as your baby grows.
Anxiety about delivery, the health of your baby and your upcoming parenthood.
Our doctors can help you manage these symptoms and provide effective treatment that’s safe for you and your baby.
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Every one of our doctors is registered with the General Medical Council and can be found on the NHS National Performers List, so you know you are only ever receiving the best possible care and advice.
They are experienced in treating a wide range of conditions, and can help with almost everything your regular GP could in a physical surgery. You can meet some of our doctors here.
Push Doctor also has an in-house Medical team, who support our doctors day in, day out, and enable our doctors to do what they do best. They are also responsible for the ongoing training and development of doctors on our platform.
They are the foremost authority in our industry, assessing health providers' ability to provide people with safe, effective, compassionate and high-quality care – be they offline or online doctors.
Push Doctor is registered with the CQC under the name 'Push Dr Limited', with the registration number 1-5345986073.
Our most recent inspection took place in May 2019, concluding that the service we provide is safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led – gaining a 'Good' rating overall. You can read the report in full on our CQC profile.
Same day prescriptions
Our NHS-trained GPs can, if appropriate, issue prescriptions online following a consultation. Once your consultation is complete, our team will search for the closest pharmacy to you which has your medication available. We'll then send you a text when your prescription is ready to collect.
To collect your medication, simply hear to the nominated pharmacy to collect and pay for your prescription. You will need to take a valid form of ID to show the pharmacist when you arrive. This process is almost always done within the same day of your consultation.
Instant fit (sick) notes
Our GPs can send a sick/fit note directly to you if necessary following an online consultation. These can be sent directly by email or first-class post.
Fit notes include recommendations about how and when you'll be able to return to work or education, or whether you're able to return to work with amended duties (e.g no heavy lifting or reduced hours). They can also contain detailed advice about managing your medical issue in the workplace.