Insomnia is a sleep disorder in which you have trouble falling and/or staying asleep. The condition can be short-term (acute) or can last a long time (chronic). It may also come and go. Acute insomnia lasts from 1 night to a few weeks. Insomnia is chronic when it happens at least 3 nights a week for 3 months or more.
Types of Insomnia
There are two types of insomnia: primary and secondary.
- Primary insomnia: This means your sleep problems aren’t linked to any other health condition or problem.
- Secondary insomnia: This means you have trouble sleeping because of a health condition (like asthma, depression, arthritis, cancer, or heartburn); pain; medication; or substance use (like alcohol).
Causes of primary insomnia include:
- Stress-related to big life events, like a job loss or change, the death of a loved one, divorce, or moving
- Things around you like noise, light, or temperature
- Changes to your sleep schedule like jet lag, a new shift at work, or bad habits you picked up when you had other sleep problems
Causes of secondary insomnia include:
- Mental health issues like depression and anxiety
- Medications for colds, allergies, depression, high blood pressure, and asthma
- Pain or discomfort at night
- Caffeine, tobacco, or alcohol use
- Hyperthyroidism and other endocrine problems
- Other sleep disorders, like sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome
Insomnia Risk Factors
Insomnia affects women more than men and older people more than younger ones. Young and middle-aged African Americans also have a higher risk.
Other risk factors include:
- Long-term illness
- Mental health issues
- Working night shifts or shifts that rotate
Symptoms of insomnia include:
- Sleepiness during the day
- Problems with concentration or memory
Your doctor will do a physical exam and ask about your medical history and sleep history.
They might tell you to keep a sleep diary for a week or two, keeping track of your sleep patterns and how you feel during the day. They may talk to your bed partner about how much and how well you’re sleeping. You might also have special tests at a sleep center.
Acute insomnia may not need treatment.
If it’s hard for you to do everyday activities because you’re tired, your doctor may prescribe sleeping pills for a short time. Medicines that work quickly but briefly can help you avoid problems like drowsiness the next day.
Don’t use over-the-counter sleeping pills for insomnia. They might have side effects, and they tend to work less well over time.
For chronic insomnia, you’ll need treatment for the conditions or health problems that are keeping you awake. Your doctor might also suggest behavioral therapy. This can help you change the things you do that make insomnia worse and learn what you can do to promote sleep.
Our bodies and brains need sleep so they can repair themselves. It’s also crucial for learning and keeping memories. If insomnia is keeping you awake, you could have:
- A higher risk of health problems like high blood pressure, obesity, and depression
- A higher risk of falling, if you’re an older woman
- Trouble focusing
- Slow reaction time that can lead to a car crash
Good sleep habits, also called sleep hygiene, can help you beat insomnia. Here are some tips:
Insomnia can be caused by psychiatric and medical conditions, unhealthy sleep habits, specific substances, and/or certain biological factors. Recently, researchers have begun to think about insomnia as a problem of your brain being unable to stop being awake (your brain has a sleep cycle and a wake cycle—when one is turned on the other is turned off—insomnia can be a problem with either part of this cycle: too much wake drive or too little sleep drive). It’s important to first understand what could be causing your sleep difficulties.
- Go to sleep at the same time each night, and get up at the same time each morning. Try not to take naps during the day, because they may make you less sleepy at night.
- Don’t use phones or e-books before bed. Their light can make it harder to fall asleep.
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol late in the day. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants and can keep you from falling asleep. Alcohol can make you wake up in the middle of the night and hurt your sleep quality.
- Get regular exercise. Try not to work out close to bedtime, because it may make it hard to fall asleep. Experts suggest exercising at least 3 to 4 hours before bed.
- Don’t eat a heavy meal late in the day. But a light snack before bedtime may help you sleep.
- Make your bedroom comfortable: dark, quiet, and not too warm or too cold. If light is a problem, use a sleeping mask. To cover up sounds, try earplugs, a fan, or a white noise machine.
- Follow a routine to relax before bed. Read a book, listen to music, or take a bath.
- Don’t use your bed for anything other than sleep and sex.
- If you can’t fall asleep and aren’t drowsy, get up and do something calming, like reading until you feel sleepy.
- If you tend to lie awake and worry about things, make a to-do list before you go to bed. This may help you put your concerns aside for the night.
Medical Causes of Insomnia
There are many medical conditions (some mild and others more serious) that can lead to insomnia. In some cases, a medical condition itself causes insomnia, while in other cases, symptoms of the condition cause discomfort that can make it difficult for a person to sleep.
Examples of medical conditions that can cause insomnia are:
- Nasal/sinus allergies
- Gastrointestinal problems such as reflux
- Endocrine problems such as hyperthyroidism
- Neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease
- Chronic pain
- Low back pain
Medications such as those taken for the common cold and nasal allergies, high blood pressure, heart disease, thyroid disease, birth control, asthma, and depression can also cause insomnia.
In addition, insomnia may be a symptom of underlying sleep disorders. For example, restless legs syndrome—a neurological condition in which a person has an uncomfortable sensation of needing to move his or her legs—can lead to insomnia. Patients with restless legs syndrome typically experience worse symptoms in the later part of the day, during periods of inactivity, and in the transition from wake to sleep, which means that falling asleep and staying asleep can be difficult. An estimated 10 percent of the population has restless legs syndrome.
Sleep apnea is another sleep disorder linked to insomnia. With sleep apnea, a person’s airway becomes partially or completely obstructed during sleep, leading to pauses in breathing and a drop in oxygen levels. This causes a person to wake up briefly but repeatedly throughout the night. People with sleep apnea sometimes report experiencing insomnia.
If you have trouble sleeping on a regular basis, it’s a good idea to review your health and think about whether any underlying medical issues or sleep disorders could be contributing to your sleep problems. In some cases, there are simple steps that can be taken to improve sleep (such as avoiding bright lighting while winding down and trying to limit possible distractions, such as a TV, computer, or pets). While in other cases, it’s important to talk to your doctor to figure out a course of action. You should not simply accept poor sleep as a way of life—talk to your doctor or a sleep specialist for help.
Insomnia & Depression
Insomnia can be caused by psychiatric conditions such as depression. Psychological struggles can make it hard to sleep, insomnia itself can bring on changes in mood, and shifts in hormones and physiology can lead to both psychiatric issues and insomnia at the same time.
Sleep problems may represent a symptom of depression, and the risk of severe insomnia is much higher in patients with major depressive disorders. Studies show that insomnia can also trigger or worsen depression.
It’s important to know that symptoms of depression (such as low energy, loss of interest or motivation, feelings of sadness or hopelessness) and insomnia can be linked, and one can make the other worse. The good news is that both are treatable regardless of which came first.
Insomnia & Anxiety
Most adults have had some trouble sleeping because they feel worried or nervous, but for some, it’s a pattern that interferes with sleep on a regular basis. Anxiety symptoms that can lead to insomnia include:
- Getting caught up in thoughts about past events
- Excessive worrying about future events
- Feeling overwhelmed by responsibilities
- A general feeling of being revved up or overstimulated
It’s not hard to see why these symptoms of general anxiety can make it difficult to sleep. Anxiety may be associated with onset insomnia (trouble falling asleep), or maintenance insomnia (waking up during the night and not being able to return to sleep). In either case, the quiet and inactivity of the night often bring on stressful thoughts or even fears that keep a person awake.
When this happens for many nights (or many months), you might start to feel anxious, dread, or panic at just the prospect of not sleeping. This is how anxiety and insomnia can feed each other and become a cycle that should be interrupted through treatment. There are cognitive and mind-body techniques that help people with anxiety settle into sleep, and overall healthy sleep practices that can improve sleep for many people with anxiety and insomnia.
Insomnia & Lifestyle
Insomnia can be triggered or perpetuated by your behaviors and sleep patterns. Unhealthy lifestyles and sleep habits can create insomnia on their own (without any underlying psychiatric or medical problem), or they can make insomnia caused by another problem worse.
Examples of how specific lifestyles and sleep habits can lead to insomnia are:
- You work at home in the evenings. This can make it hard to unwind, and it can also make you feel preoccupied when it comes time to sleep. The light from your computer could also make your brain more alert.
- You take naps (even if they are short) in the afternoon. Short naps can be helpful for some people, but for others, they make it difficult to fall asleep at night.
- You sometimes sleep in later to make up for lost sleep. This can confuse your body’s clock and make it difficult to fall asleep again the following night.
- You are a shift worker (meaning that you work irregular hours). Non-traditional hours can confuse your body’s clock, especially if you are trying to sleep during the day, or if your schedule changes periodically.
Some cases of insomnia start out with an acute episode but turn into a longer-term problem. For example, let’s say a person can’t sleep for a night or two after receiving bad news. In this case, if the person starts to adopt unhealthy sleep habits such as getting up in the middle of the night to work, or drinking alcohol before bed to compensate, insomnia can continue and potentially turn into a more serious problem. Instead of passing, it can become chronic.
Once this happens, worry and thoughts such as, “I’ll never sleep,” become associated with bedtime, and every time the person can’t sleep, it reinforces the pattern.
This is why it’s important to address insomnia instead of letting it become the norm. If lifestyle and unhealthy sleep habits are the cause of insomnia, there are cognitive-behavioral techniques and sleep hygiene tips that can help. If you have tried to change your sleep behaviors and it hasn’t worked, it’s important to take this seriously and talk to your doctor.
Insomnia & Food
Certain substances and activities, including eating patterns, can contribute to insomnia. If you can’t sleep, review the following lifestyle factors to see if one or more could be affecting you:
Alcohol is a sedative. It can make you fall asleep initially but may disrupt your sleep later in the night.
Caffeine is a stimulant. Most people understand the alerting power of caffeine and use it in the morning to help them start the day and feel productive. Caffeine in moderation is fine for most people, but excessive caffeine can cause insomnia. A 2005 National Sleep Foundation poll found that people who drank four or more cups/cans of caffeinated drinks a day were more likely than those who drank zero to one cups/cans daily to experience at least one symptom of insomnia at least a few nights each week.
Caffeine can stay in your system for as long as eight hours, so the effects are long-lasting. If you have insomnia, do not consume food or drinks with caffeine too close to bedtime.
Nicotine is also a stimulant and can cause insomnia. Smoking cigarettes or tobacco products close to bedtime can make it hard to fall asleep and to sleep well through the night. Smoking is damaging to your health. If you smoke, you should stop.
Heavy meals close to bedtime can disrupt your sleep. The best practice is to eat lightly before bedtime. When you eat too much in the evening, it can cause discomfort and make it hard for your body to settle and relax. Spicy foods can also cause heartburn and interfere with your sleep.
Insomnia & The Brain
In some cases, insomnia may be caused by certain neurotransmitters in the brain that are known to be involved with sleep and wakefulness.
There are many possible chemical interactions in the brain that could interfere with sleep and may explain why some people are biologically prone to insomnia and seem to struggle with sleep for many years without any identifiable cause—even when they follow healthy sleep advice.
Insomnia is a type of sleep disorder. Individuals with insomnia find it difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep, or both.
People with insomnia often don’t feel refreshed when they wake up from sleeping, either. This can lead to fatigue and other symptoms.
Insomnia is the most common of all sleep disorders, according to the American Psychiatric Association (APA). In fact, the APA states that about one-third of all adults report insomnia symptoms. But between 6 to 10 percent of all adults have symptoms severe enough for them to be diagnosed with insomnia disorder.
The APA defines insomnia as a disorder in which people have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Doctors make a clinical diagnosis of insomnia if both of these criteria apply:
- Sleep difficulties occurring at least three nights a week for a minimum of three months.
- Sleep difficulties creating major distress or functional difficulties in a person’s life.
Keep reading to learn all about the symptoms, causes, and types of insomnia.
The causes of your insomnia will depend on the type of sleeplessness you experience.
Short-term insomnia may be caused by stress, an upsetting or traumatic event, or changes to your sleep habits.
Chronic insomnia lasts for at least three months and is usually secondary to another problem or a combination of problems, including:
- medical conditions which make it harder to sleep, such as arthritis or back pain
- psychological issues, such as anxiety or depression
- substance use
Risk factors for insomnia
Insomnia can occur at any age and is more likely to affect women than men.
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), people with certain risk factors are more likely to have insomnia. These risk factors include:
- high levels of stress
- emotional disorders, such as depression or distress related to a life event
- traveling to different time zones
- sedentary lifestyle
- changes in work hours, or working night shifts
Certain medical conditions, such as obesity and cardiovascular disease, can also lead to insomnia. Menopause can lead to insomnia as well. Find out more about the causes of — and risk factors for — insomnia.
There are both pharmaceutical and nonpharmaceutical treatments for insomnia.
Your doctor can talk to you about what treatments might be appropriate. You may need to try a number of different treatments before finding the one that’s most effective for you.
The American College of Physicians (ACP) recommends cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) as a first-line treatment for chronic insomnia in adults.
Sleep hygiene training may also be recommended. Sometimes, behaviors that interfere with sleep cause insomnia. Sleep hygiene training can help you change some of these disruptive behaviors.
Suggested changes may include:
- avoiding caffeinated beverages near bedtime
- avoiding exercise near bedtime
- minimizing the time spent on your bed when you’re not specifically intending to sleep, such as watching TV or surfing the web on your phone
If there’s an underlying psychological or medical disorder contributing to your insomnia, getting appropriate treatment for it can alleviate sleep difficulties. Discover more treatments for insomnia.
Sometimes, medications are used to treat insomnia.
An example of an over-the-counter (OTC) medication that can be used for sleep is an antihistamine, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl). Medications like this can have side effects, especially long term, so it’s important to talk to a doctor before starting yourself on an OTC medicine for insomnia.
Prescription medications that may be used to treat insomnia include:
- eszopiclone (Lunesta)
- zolpidem (Ambien)
Talk with your doctor before using any medications or supplements to treat your insomnia.
There might be dangerous side effects or drug interactions. Not every “sleep aid” is appropriate for everyone. Get more information on insomnia medications.
Many cases of insomnia can be effectively managed by making lifestyle changes or trying home remedies.
Warm milk, herbal tea, and valerian are just a few of the natural sleep aids you can try.
Meditation is a natural, easy, drug-free method for treating insomnia. According to the National Sleep Foundation, meditation can help improve the quality of your sleep, as well as make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.
The Mayo Clinic says that meditation can also help with symptoms of conditions that may contribute to insomnia. These include:
- digestive problems
Many apps and videos are available to help you meditate.
The hormone melatonin is naturally produced by the body during the sleep cycle. People often take melatonin supplements in hopes of improving their sleep.
Studies are inconclusive regarding whether melatonin can actually help treat insomnia in adults. There’s some evidence that supplements may slightly decrease the time it takes you to fall asleep but more research is needed.
Melatonin is generally thought to be safe for a short period of time, but its long-term safety has yet to be confirmed.
It’s always best to work with your doctor when deciding to take melatonin.
Essential oils are strong aromatic liquids made from a variety of plants, flowers, and trees. People treat a variety of conditions by inhaling oils or massaging them into the skin. This practice is called aromatherapy.
Essential oils that are thought to help you sleep include:
- Roman chamomile
- neroli, or bitter orange
A review of 12 studies in 2015 found aromatherapy to be beneficial in promoting sleep.
Another study found lavender to be especially useful in promoting and sustaining sleep. The study reported that a mixture of essential oils reduced sleep disturbance and increased well-being in older adults.
Essential oils don’t generally cause side effects when used as directed. Most essential oils have been classified GRAS (generally recognized as safe) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
However, aromatherapy isn’t regulated by law in the United States, and no license is required for practice. Therefore, it’s important to select practitioners and products carefully.
Find out more about safe and healthy home remedies for insomnia.
Insomnia is common during pregnancy, especially in the first and third trimesters.
Fluctuating hormones, , and an increased need to urinate are some of them that may keep you awake in early pregnancy.
You may also face emotional stressors, such as anxiety about the increasing responsibilities you’ll face as a mother. Pain — such as cramps and back discomfort — may also keep you awake.
Your body is undergoing many changes, like an active metabolism and an increase in progesterone, to accommodate the new life growing in you. It’s normal for your sleep patterns to change, too.
Lifestyle changes that may help include:
- keeping active during your pregnancy
- maintaining a healthy diet
- staying well-hydrated
- maintaining a consistent sleep schedule
- practicing relaxation techniques during the day or taking a warm bath before bedtime, if you have anxiety
Contact your doctor about any new exercise routines, medications, or supplements you might be interested in. You’ll want to ensure that they’re safe for someone who’s pregnant.
The good news is that pregnancy-related insomnia usually passes, and it doesn’t affect your baby’s development. Get more information on insomnia during early pregnancy.
In order to arrive at a diagnosis, your doctor will ask questions about your:
- medical conditions
- social environment
- psychological or emotional condition
- sleep history
This information can help them determine the underlying causes of your sleep problems. You might be asked to:
- keep a sleep log
- record when you fall asleep
- note the instances when you wake up repeatedly
- report what time you wake up each day
An asleep log will give your doctor a picture of your sleep patterns. The doctor may also order medical tests or blood work to rule out medical problems that can interfere with your sleep.
Sometimes a sleep study is recommended.
For this, you’ll stay overnight at a sleep center. Electrodes will be placed on your body. They’ll be used to record brainwaves and sleep cycles.
The results of your sleep study will provide your doctor with potentially important neuroelectrical and physiological information. Learn which types of doctors may be able to help diagnose insomnia.
There are many different ways to characterize insomnia, and some of these types of insomnia will even overlap.
Causes of insomnia
Insomnia may be either primary or secondary.
Primary insomnia is insomnia that’s not caused by another condition. It’s often triggered by life changes, such as a varying work schedule.
Secondary insomnia is the result of an underlying health condition or lifestyle habits, such as a mental health condition or excessive daytime napping. Doctors often call this type of insomnia comorbid insomnia.
Duration of insomnia
Short-term forms of insomnia include situational insomnia and episodic insomnia.
Situational insomnia is also known as acute insomnia and lasts for days or even weeks. Episodic insomnia lasts for one to three months.
Chronic forms of insomnia include persistent insomnia and recurrent insomnia.
Persistent insomnia lasts for at least three months.
Recurrent insomnia is characterized by at least two episodes of insomnia over the course of a year. These episodes will last for one to three months at a time.
Symptoms of insomnia
Types of insomnia are also characterized by their symptoms.
Onset insomnia is the medical term for insomnia in which you have difficulty falling asleep at the beginning of the night.
Maintenance insomnia is the term for the inability to stay asleep. People with maintenance insomnia often wake up during the night and then find it difficult to go back to sleep.
Children can have insomnia, too — often for the same reasons as adults. These reasons might include:
- excessive caffeine intake
- psychiatric disorders
If your child has trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, or if they wake up too early, insomnia may be the reason.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, symptoms of insomnia in children may include:
- daytime sleepiness or restlessness
- irritability and mood swings
- repeated disciplinary issues
- memory problems and attention deficits
Treatment for children is often the same as treatments for adults.
Children will benefit from a consistent sleep schedule and good sleep hygiene. Reducing stress and avoiding screen time near bedtime will help as well. Discover more ways to help your child sleep better.
Anxiety can cause insomnia, and insomnia can cause anxiety. This can result in a self-perpetuating cycle that may lead to chronic insomnia.
According to Australia’s Sleep Health Foundation, anxiety and worrying are leading causes of insomnia.
Short-term anxiety develops when you worry frequently about the same specific issue, such as work or your personal relationships. Short-term anxiety usually goes away once the issue is resolved. Your sleep should return to normal as well.
People can also be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or panic disorder. These disorders can result in varying degrees of insomnia.
The causes of anxiety disorders aren’t completely understood. Treatment is usually long term and includes a combination of therapy and medications.
The same lifestyle and behavioral practices recommended for other forms of insomnia help diminish anxiety-related insomnia, such as restricting stressful topics of conversation to the daytime. Learn more about the connection between mental health issues and insomnia.
Insomnia and depression | Depression
According to the National Sleep Foundation, not only does insomnia make you more likely to develop depression, but depression can also make you more likely to develop insomnia.
A meta-analysis of 34 studies concluded that poor sleep — especially during times of stress — significantly increased the risk of depression.
Another study found that as insomnia persisted and symptoms worsened, subjects developed an even greater risk of developing depression.
For other people, symptoms of depression may precede insomnia.
The good news is that the same treatments often help both depression and insomnia, no matter which condition comes first.
The most common treatments are medications, therapy, and lifestyle changes. These lifestyle changes can include better sleep habits, exercising in the daytime, and eating a balanced diet.
Insomnia isn’t just a nuisance or a small inconvenience. It’s a real sleep disorder, and it can be treated.
If you think you have insomnia, talk to your doctor. By exploring possible causes, you can get the appropriate and safe treatment you need.
Symptoms and causes of insomnia are different for every patient. Insomnia symptoms may include:
- Problems with attention, concentration or memory (cognitive impairment)
- Poor performance at school or work
- Moodiness or irritability
- Daytime sleepiness
- Impulsiveness or aggression
- Lack of energy or motivation
- Errors or accidents
- Concern or frustration about your sleep
Insomnia is most often associated with another problem. Insomnia that is not caused or worsened by other factors is rare. These factors may include:
This varies from relatively minor things like work or personal stress to more severe changes such as death, divorce or job loss.
Other sleep disorders
Some sleep disorders can cause insomnia or make it worse. For instance, people with restless legs syndrome may have a hard time falling asleep.
Many physical illnesses can cause insomnia. People who experience pain, discomfort or limited mobility from medical problems may have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Insomnia due to medical conditions is most common in older adults because people tend to have more chronic health problems as they age. Conditions such as pregnancy, particularly the third trimester, and menopause can cause sleep problems. The severity and duration of insomnia often varies with the related health condition.
The relationship between sleep and mental health is complex. Insomnia is sometimes caused by a mental health disorder. Often a mental health disorder will be found after a complaint of insomnia. Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses in the United States and a frequent cause of insomnia. People with depression often have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Difficulty falling asleep is also common in people with anxiety disorders. Other mood disorders such as bipolar disorder may also cause sleep problems.
Medication or substance use or abuse
Insomnia can be an unwanted side effect of many prescription or over-the-counter medications. Common cold and allergy medicines contain pseudoephedrine and can make it difficult to fall asleep. Antidepressants and medications to treat ADHD, high blood pressure or Parkinson’s disease can also cause insomnia.
Drinking alcohol before bedtime can cause frequent awakenings during the night. Insomnia also can occur if you suddenly stop using a sleeping pill.
Caffeine and other stimulants can prevent you from falling asleep. Stimulants also cause frequent awakenings during the night.
Some people are sensitive to certain foods and may be allergic to them. This can result in insomnia and disrupted sleep.
The environment where you sleep can cause insomnia. Disruptive factors such as noise, light or extreme temperatures can interfere with sleep. Sleeping with a bed partner who snores also can cause sleep disruption. Extended exposure to environmental toxins and chemicals may prevent you from being able to fall asleep or stay asleep.
Habits or lifestyles
Irregular sleep schedules (see shift work disorder) can cause insomnia in workers who try to sleep during the day.
Updated March 4, 2015
Insomnia is a sleep disorder of difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep. People with insomnia have symptoms that include difficulty falling asleep , waking up often during the night and having trouble going back to sleep, and having sleep that is not refreshing.
What is insomnia?
Insomnia is a sleep disorder in which people have one or more of the following symptoms:
- Difficulty falling asleep.
- Waking up often during the night and having trouble going back to sleep.
- Waking up too early in the morning.
- Having sleep that is not refreshing.
Who gets insomnia?
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:
- Primary insomnia means that a person is having sleep problems that are not directly associated with any other health condition or problem.
- Secondary (co-morbid) insomnia means that a person is having sleep problems because of something else, such as a health condition (for example, asthma, depression, arthritis, cancer, or heartburn), pain, medicine they are taking, or a substance they are using (such as alcohol).
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.
In addition to stress, what are other causes of insomnia?
Causes of acute insomnia can include:
- Other significant types of life stressors (job loss or change, death of a loved one, moving).
- Emotional or physical discomfort.
- Environmental factors such as noise, light, or extreme temperatures (hot or cold) that interfere with sleep.
- Things that interfere with a normal sleep schedule (jet lag or switching from a day to night shift, for example).
Causes of chronic insomnia include:
- Chronic stress.
- Pain or discomfort at night.