Insomnia is a sleep disorder in which people have one or more of the following symptoms:
Approximately 50% of adults experience occasional bouts of insomnia, and 1 in 10 complain of chronic insomnia. Insomnia is approximately twice as common in women as in men, and is more common in older than younger people.
Kinds of insomnia
There are two kinds of insomnia:
Insomnia also varies in how long it lasts and how often it occurs. Insomnia can be short-term (acute insomnia) or can last a long time (chronic insomnia). It can also come and go, with periods of time when a person has no sleep problems. Acute insomnia can last from 1 night to a few weeks. Insomnia is called chronic when a person has insomnia at least 3 nights a week for a month or longer.
There are still other ways to classify insomnia. One of the most common forms of insomnia is called psychophysiological ("mind-body") insomnia. This is a disorder of learned, sleep-preventing associations, such as not being able to sleep because either your body or your mind is not relaxed. People with this insomnia usually have excessive, daily worries about not being able to fall or stay asleep when desired and worry that their efforts to fall asleep will be unsuccessful. Many people with this condition are concerned that they will never have a good night of sleep again. Stress is the most common cause of psychophysiological insomnia. While sleep problems are common when going through a stressful event, some people continue to have sleep problems long after the stressful event is over. Sometimes the stress and sleep problems create an ongoing, worsening cycle of each problem.
Causes of acute insomnia can include:
Causes of chronic insomnia include:
Symptoms of insomnia include sleepiness during the day, general tiredness, irritability, and problems with concentration or memory.
If you think you have insomnia, talk to your healthcare provider. An evaluation may include a physical exam, a medical history, and a sleep history. You may be asked to keep a sleep diary for a week or two, keeping track of your sleep patterns and how you feel during the day. Your healthcare provider may want to interview your bed partner about the quantity and quality of your sleep. In some cases, you may be referred to a sleep center for special tests.
Acute insomnia may not require treatment. Mild insomnia often can be prevented or cured by practicing good sleep habits (see below). If your insomnia makes it hard for you to function during the day because you are sleepy and tired, your healthcare provider may prescribe sleeping pills for a limited time. Rapid onset, short-acting medicines can help you avoid effects such as drowsiness the following day. Some medicines may be less effective after several weeks of nightly use, however, and long-term safety and effectiveness have not yet been established. Avoid using over-the-counter sleeping pills for insomnia.
Treatment for chronic insomnia includes first treating any underlying conditions or health problems that are causing the insomnia. If insomnia continues, your healthcare provider may suggest behavioral therapy. Behavioral approaches help you to change behaviors that may worsen insomnia and to learn new behaviors to promote sleep. Behavior therapy is commonly used to treat psychophysiological insomnia. Other techniques such as relaxation exercises, biofeedback, sleep restriction therapy, and reconditioning can be tried. Although these techniques require some effort and take time to work, they do provide a means of coping with insomnia that help people return to more normal sleep patterns.
Good sleep habits, also called sleep hygiene, can help you get a good night's sleep. For example:
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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 04/15/2015