Insomnia is a condition in which you have trouble falling or staying asleep. Some people with insomnia may fall asleep easily but wake up too soon. Other people may have the opposite problem, or they have trouble with both falling asleep and staying asleep. The end result is poor–quality sleep that doesn't leave you feeling refreshed when you wake up.
Primary insomnia is not due to another medical or emotional condition and typically occurs for periods of at least 1 month. Whether some people are born with a greater chance of having insomnia is not clear yet.
Insomnia is a common disorder. 1 in 3 adults occasionally has insomnia. 1 in 10 adults has chronic insomnia. Insomnia affects women more often than men, and it can occur at any age. However, older adults are more likely to have insomnia than younger people. People especially prone to insomnia include those who are:
Under a lot of stress
Depressed or who have other emotional distress
Working at night or having frequent major shifts in their work hours
Traveling long distances with time changes (jet lag)
Your doctor will usually diagnose insomnia based on your medical history, sleep history, a physical exam, and a sleep study if the cause of your insomnia is unclear.
Physical Exam You may need to take blood tests to check for thyroid problems or other conditions that can cause sleep problems.
Sleep Study (Polysomnogram) A polysomnogram is a recording of your breathing, movements, heart function, and brain activity during sleep. For this study, you sleep overnight at a special sleep center. Your doctor usually will recommend a sleep study if you have signs of another sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome.
Making lifestyle changes that make it easier to fall asleep and/or stay asleep can often relieve insomnia. For longer lasting insomnia, a type of counseling called cognitive–behavioral therapy can help relieve the anxiety linked to your sleep problem. Anxiety tends to prolong the insomnia. Several medicines also can help relieve insomnia and re–establish a regular sleep schedule.
Insomnia is a common problem. It can cause excessive daytime sleepiness and a lack of energy. Long–term insomnia can cause you to feel depressed or irritable; have trouble paying attention, learning, and remembering; and not do your best on the job or at school. Insomnia also can limit the energy you have to spend with friends or family.
Insomnia can be mild to severe depending on how often it occurs and for how long. Chronic insomnia means having symptoms at least 3 nights per week for more than a month. Insomnia that lasts for less time is known as short–term or acute insomnia.