Insomnia and Sleep

Insomnia is a condition which relates to the inability to sleep normally. It is a very common condition, with nearly one-third of the population experiencing the effects of insomnia in a given year. If you have insomnia, think you may have insomnia, or otherwise would like to know more about the condition, we have put together this complete guide to help you understand everything there is to know. We’ll be answering common questions we are regularly asked about insomnia along with advice and our best recommendations on how to sleep better.

An introduction to insomnia

In this complete guide, we aim to provide as much information as possible about insomnia and sleeping well. Whether you need a full introduction to insomnia or are searching for some specific pointers on the condition to help you out, this guide provides everything you need to know. It covers answers to and offers advice on the following topics:

  • What is insomnia?
  • What is the recommended amount of sleep?
  • Insomnia symptoms
  • What causes insomnia?
  • What effects can insomnia have?
  • How to help insomnia?
  • Dos and don’ts and insomnia treatments
  • Useful links

What is insomnia?

Insomnia is a condition in which a person has trouble sleeping and regularly isn’t able to get a full night’s sleep. If you have insomnia, you may wake up several times in the night, find it hard to go to sleep, or lie awake through the night.

Insomnia is categorised into two groups: short-term insomnia and long-term insomnia. Acute insomnia is when the condition is experienced in less than three months, whereas chronic insomnia is when symptoms continue after three months.

Sleeping well is essential for a good quality of life, as it helps your mind and body repair, helps you re-energise, and improves your motivation and mood. If you have or think you may have insomnia, continue reading to find our advice on how to best treat it and begin sleeping well again.

What is the recommended amount of sleep?

On average, a person needs 8 hours of sleep a night to be fully rested. Consistently getting this amount of sleep leads to a better sleeping pattern and you will feel well-rested as a result. People in different age demographics require different amounts of sleep, with more sleep being needed the younger a person is. The recommended amount of sleep for each group according to the Sleep Foundation is as follows:

  • Toddlers and babies - 12 to 17 hours
  • Children - 9 to 13 hours
  • Teenagers - 8 to 10 hours
  • Adults - 7 to 9 hours
  • Older adults - 7 to 8 hours

Insomnia symptoms

The main symptom of insomnia is usually a feeling of tiredness throughout the day. You may have insomnia if you are experiencing the below symptoms:

  • Having trouble falling asleep
  • Lying awake throughout the night
  • Waking up early in the morning, unable to go back to sleep
  • Relying on sleep medication or alcohol to get a night’s rest
  • Finding it difficult to concentrate throughout the day
  • Feeling tired after waking up

When to see a doctor

There may be some overlap in these symptoms between sleep deprivation and insomnia, and it is important to distinguish between the two. You may find yourself to be tired from not sleeping enough and having a poorly managed sleeping pattern. Conversely, insomnia is the inability to sleep, even when you have a good sleeping routine and allow yourself enough time to sleep.

The NHS advises you to see a doctor when poor sleeping becomes a considerable problem, when:

  • Changing your sleeping habits has not alleviated your tiredness
  • You have had problems sleeping for months
  • Your insomnia is affecting your daily life in a way that is hard to deal with

What causes insomnia?

The causes of insomnia are vast, and it may not just be one aspect of your daily living routine that could be causing it. If you are having trouble sleeping, below is a list of things that can contribute to insomnia and poor sleep:

  • Caffeine
  • Stress
  • Noise
  • Jet lag
  • Alcohol
  • Depression
  • An uncomfortable bed
  • Anxiety
  • Recreational drugs like cocaine or ecstasy

Insomnia can often be worsened through a vicious cycle of poor sleeping decisions. For example, people with insomnia may find that they may try to correct their insomnia with a bad habit, such as a nap. However, this will make it more difficult to sleep at night and leave them feeling poorly rested again the next day.

What effects can insomnia have?

When a person doesn’t get enough sleep, their energy, mental health, and physical health suffer. You could suffer from:

  • A lack of concentration - Being sleep-deprived makes it more difficult to concentrate, which can have an impact on work and performing basic tasks.
  • Weight gain - People who don’t get enough sleep have increased levels of ghrelin (the hormone that makes you feel hungry) and reduced levels of leptin (the chemical that makes you feel full). This can lead to weight gain.
  • A loss of libido - People who are sleep-deprived often suffer from a reduced sex drive.
  • A weakened immune system - A lack of sleep can mean that your body becomes more susceptible to illness, such as coughs and colds, as it disrupts your immune system.

A biomedical report from the National Library of Medicine in the USA shows that over a long period, a lack of sleep can even pose the risk of more serious conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. It’s therefore important to treat your insomnia and aim to sleep well. Below, we delve into several solutions on how to get yourself back on track with getting better sleep.

How to help insomnia?

Insomnia can be cured with the right help. If you find yourself regularly unable to sleep and it is having an impact on your daily life, you should contact your GP as they will be able to best advise you on your specific circumstances.

However, it is possible that with the right steps, you can cure your insomnia yourself. To get you started on sleeping better, we detail some dos and don’ts to keep in mind when thinking about how to cure insomnia:

Dos and don’ts


  • Go to bed at the same time every night - This is a key part of helping to fix insomnia as your body will naturally adjust to a regular sleep schedule and feel tired at the right times.
  • Ensure your sleeping environment is relaxing and comfortable - Make sure your bed is comfortable to rest in and block out any disturbances. For example, you should block out any light or noise with a sleeping mask or earplugs respectively.
  • Wind down before bed - Be sure to help your body wind down before bed. You could do so by taking a warm bath, reading a book, or doing some gentle stretching.
  • Get help for underlying conditions - Some mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder, can make getting to sleep more difficult. Speak to your GP about treating these conditions, as doing so will likely improve your ability to sleep.
  • Avoid high-sugar food and drink - Food and drinks high in sugar such as energy drinks or processed cereals can provide a quick boost of energy, but then leave you feeling even more tired later on. Choosing foods that slowly release energy throughout the day, such as porridge or wholegrain cereal, will provide you with the energy you need without crashing.
  • Get out of bed if you can’t sleep - Tossing and turning won’t help if you are unable to sleep. Instead do something relaxing, such as meditation, and then return to bed when you feel more sleepy.
  • Keep a sleep diary - Take note of your sleeping habits each night, such as details of when you went to bed and anything you did during the day that could have positively or negatively affected your sleep. By doing so, it will be easier to identify what is causing your insomnia and what activities help you personally sleep better.
  • Exercise - As well as its many other health benefits, regular exercise is a great way to tire your body out and thereby helps the body to fall asleep faster.


  • Eat large meals late at night - Digesting a large meal before bed can interfere with your ability to sleep well. 
  • Use your phone or other electronic devices before bed - The bright, blue light these devices emit makes it more difficult for your body to go to sleep.
  • Smoke or drink alcohol, tea, or coffee before bed - The chemicals within this group, such as nicotine and caffeine, stimulate the brain and make it difficult for the body to rest.
  • Drinking too much water before bed - Refrain from drinking large amounts of water before bed, as needing to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night will disrupt your sleep.
  • Don’t nap - Though it may be tempting to do so, aim to resist the temptation to nap as this will further disrupt your sleep schedule and make it hard to sleep at night.

Insomnia treatments

Sleeping aids, such as insomnia and sleeping pills can be used to help in getting a good night’s rest. It is important to note, however, that these shouldn’t be depended on as a permanent solution. If you intend to use medication to help treat insomnia, you should first ask a pharmacist or doctor for further advice.

At Pharmacy Prime, we supply several insomnia and sleep aids that can help set you on the path to cure your acute insomnia. Some of these medications include:

Useful links

Contact us

We hope this guide on insomnia and sleep has helped you to better understand the condition and has provided you with some insightful tips on how to sleep better. If you would like to know more about the different sleeping aids we provide at Pharmacy Prime or have any other enquiries relating to our products, please get in touch with us. A member of our friendly team will soon be in touch with you.