Conditions InDepth: 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.
It becomes more common as you get older.
Over the course of a year, about one third to half 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:
Chronic insomnia may also be due to behavioral factors. These include:
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:
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- Expecting to have difficulty sleeping and worrying about it
- Excessive napping in the afternoon or evening
Buysse DJ. Insomnia. JAMA. 2013;309(7):706-716.
Can't sleep at night? National Sleep Foundation
website. Available at:
Accessed March 2, 2016.
Insomnia in adults. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114839/Insomnia-in-adults. Updated March 21, 2016. Accessed October 4, 2016.
Merrigan JM, Buysse DJ, Bird JC, Livingston EH. JAMA patient page. Insomnia. JAMA 2013;309(7):733.
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 March 2, 2016.