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Conditions InDepth: Insomnia
Insomnia is defined as inadequate or poor-quality sleep despite having adequate time to sleep. Insomnia may take the form of difficulty falling asleep, or middle-of-the-night or early-morning awakening. It may be a short-term problem or occur more often over a long period of time.
Over the course of a year, about one third of adults experience some level of insomnia. About 10%-15% have more severe or chronic insomnia. It may cause problems during the day, such as tiredness, a lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, and irritability.
Insomnia is not a disease. Instead, it is a result of a behavior or a symptom of an underlying mental or physical problem. There are many causes of insomnia.
Short-term insomnia is often due to temporary situations. It generally occurs in people who are experiencing one or more of the following:
- A life crisis or stress
- A change in the sleep environment, including factors such as noise, light, or temperature
- Sleep/wake schedule problems, such as those due to jet lag or temporary shift work
- Side effects of medication
Chronic insomnia often results from a medical condition. They may include:
- Manic disorders
- Stress in relationships
- Conditions that cause chronic pain
- Kidney disease
- Heart failure
- Sleep apnea
- Restless legs syndrome
- Parkinsons disease
- Dementia or Alzheimers disease
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease
- Sickle cell disease
Chronic insomnia may also be due to behavioral factors. These include:
- Misuse of nicotine , caffeine , alcohol , or other substances
- Disrupted sleep/wake cycles from shift work or other nighttime activity schedules
- Chronic stress
For some people, insomnia is aggravated by:
- Expecting to have difficulty sleeping and worrying about it
- Excessive napping in the afternoon or evening
Can't Sleep? What to know about insomnia. National Sleep Foundation website. Available at: http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-related-problems/insomnia-and-sleep . Accessed May 15, 2013.
Insomnia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php . Updated April 11, 2013. Accessed May 15, 2013.
Insomnia. Quick Answers to Medical Diagnosis and Therapy. Access Medicine website. Available at: http://accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aid=3267380 . Accessed May 15, 2013
Parmet S, Burke A, Glass RM. Insomnia. JAMA Patient Page . 2006 June 28.295(24).
What is insomnia? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/inso/ . Updated December 13, 2011. Accessed May 15, 2013.
- Reviewer: Marcin Chwistek, MD
- Review Date: 05/2014
- Update Date: 05/17/2014