DEAR MAYO CLINIC: My mother-in-law has had insomnia ever since her husband died (just over one year ago). She regularly takes over-the-counter sleep aids, but I am concerned she is also depressed. Is it true that the two conditions are related? Should I encourage her to see a therapist?
ANSWER: Insomnia can be a reflection of ongoing distress, and it is often associated with episodes of clinical depression following a period of grieving. But it is possible that your mother-in-law’s insomnia and the loss of her husband are not connected. It would be a good idea for her to make an appointment to see her primary care physician. That physician can assess your mother-in-law’s medical condition and, if needed, provide a referral to a mental health professional.
Insomnia is generally defined as the inability to fall asleep, stay asleep or both, despite the opportunity for adequate sleep. Occasional insomnia is a nuisance, but it usually does not present significant health concerns. When insomnia persists, however, it can become a clinical problem.