How can I find the underlying cause of chronic insomnia?

This question was asked in Oak Grove, Alabama on 03/09/2012.
I suffer from chronic insomnia. I currently take Ambien nightly. I have had a sleep study, there is no sleep apnea. I want to know the underlying cause instead of just "popping a pill." Pills only last about four hours anyway. I had a history of seizures during teen years, I am now 52. I am always tired and have difficulty focusing. What is the next step in solving this mystery?

Doctors Answers (2)

Richard J. Schumann Jr., MD
Answered on: 3/12/2012

Chronic Insomnia is defined as persistent sleep difficulties lasting over a month's time and occurring at least 3 nights a week. Several factors lead the perpetuation of insomnia over the long term such as medical and psychiatric disorders (especially depression and anxiety disorders), excessive alcohol and caffeine intake, chronic pain, obesity, poor sleep hygiene and environmental disruptions (noisy bed partner), just to name a few. Unfortunately, you likely have a hypnotic dependent sleep disorder as well due to chronic use of the Ambien. Chronic use of this type of medicine is potentially dangerous and ill advised. To begin to address both of these significant problems you need to see a sleep specialist to devise a plan to wean you off the medications over several months and alternatively use long term Cognitive Behavioral therapies like Sleep Restriction, Stimulus Control or Biofeedback to address and treat your insomnia. A Neurology referral to address the need for treatment of epileptic seizures and memory deficits is also strongly advised.

Marjorie Yong, M.D.
Answered on: 3/12/2012

You may have a nutritional deficiency causing your fatigue. Make sure to be seen by a physician who specializes in Medical Nutrition.