What is insomnia?
Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that is characterized by difficulty:
- Falling asleep initially.
- Waking up during the night.
- Waking earlier than desired.
What are the symptoms of insomnia?
Chronic insomnia may cause:
- Difficulty falling asleep and/or waking up in the middle of the night.
- Difficulty returning to sleep.
- Feeling tired/fatigued during the daytime.
- Irritability or depressed mood.
- Problems with concentration or memory.
What are the types of insomnia?
Insomnia can come and go, or it may be an ongoing, longstanding issue. There are short-term insomnia and chronic insomnia:
- Short-term insomnia tends to last for a few days or weeks and is often triggered by stress.
- Chronic insomnia is when sleep difficulties occur at least three times a week for three months or longer.
How common is insomnia?
Sleep disorders are very common. They affect up to 70 million Americans every year.
Insomnia symptoms occur in approximately 33% to 50% of the adult population while Chronic Insomnia disorder that is associated with distress or impairment is estimated at 10% to 15%.
How much sleep do most people need?
Most adults need around seven to nine hours of sleep per night but the amount of sleep needed to function at your best varies between individuals. The quality of your rest matters just as much as the quantity. Tossing and turning and repeatedly awakening is as bad for your health as being unable to fall asleep.
Symptoms and Causes
What causes insomnia?
Many things can contribute to the development of insomnia including environmental, physiological and psychological factors, including:
- Life stressors include your job, relationships, financial difficulties, and more.
- Unhealthy lifestyle and sleep habits.
- Anxiety disorders, depression, and/or other mental health problems.
- Chronic diseases like cancer.
- Chronic pain due to arthritis, fibromyalgia, or other conditions.
- Gastrointestinal disorders, such as heartburn.
- Hormone fluctuations due to menstruation, menopause, thyroid disease, or other issues.
- Medications and other substances.
- Neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease.
- Other sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea and restless legs’ syndrome.
What are the risk factors for insomnia?
Insomnia occurs more often in women than in men. Pregnancy and hormonal shifts can disturb sleep. Other hormonal changes, such as premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or menopause, can also affect sleep. Insomnia becomes more common over the age of 60. Older people may be less likely to sleep soundly because of bodily changes related to aging and because they may have medical conditions or take medications that disturb sleep.
What are the consequences of insomnia?
When you can’t fall asleep or your rest is fitful, you may:
- Be irritable, anxious, or depressed.
- Feel fatigued or low on energy throughout the day.
- Have memory problems or difficulty concentrating.
- Struggle at work, school, or in relationships.
Diagnosis and Tests
How is insomnia diagnosed?
There is no specific test to diagnose insomnia. Your healthcare provider will perform a physical exam and ask questions to learn more about your sleep problems and symptoms. The key information for the diagnosis of insomnia is reviewing your sleep history with your doctor. Your provider will also review your medical history and the medications you are taking to see if they may be affecting your ability to sleep. You may also:
- Get a blood test: Your doctor may want you to do a blood test to rule out certain medical conditions such as thyroid problems or low iron levels that can negatively impact sleep.
- Keep a sleep diary: You may be asked to write down your sleep patterns for one to two weeks (bedtime, wake time, naps, caffeine use, etc.) This information can help your provider identify patterns or behaviors that interfere with rest.
- Complete a sleep study: Sleep studies (polysomnogram) are not necessary for diagnosing insomnia. If your doctor has concerns that your insomnia may be caused by sleep apnea or another sleep disorder, you may be referred. You may go to a sleep disorders center or do the study at home.
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