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 stressA change in the sleep environment, including factors such as noise, light, or temperatureSleep/wake schedule problems, such as those due to jet lag or temporary shift workSide effects of medication
Chronic insomnia often results from a medical condition. They may include: DepressionAnxiety
ArthritisManic disordersStress in relationshipsConditions that cause chronic painKidney diseaseHeart failureAsthmaSleep apneaNarcolepsyRestless legs syndromeParkinson's diseaseDementia
Alzheimer's diseaseHyperthyroidismGastroesophageal reflux disease
(GERD)PregnancyMenopauseSickle cell disease
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 schedulesChronic stress
For some people, insomnia is aggravated by: Expecting to have difficulty sleeping and worrying about itExcessive 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.
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.
Last reviewed March 2016 by Marcin Chwistek, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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