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At some point, many adults experience short-term (acute) insomnia, which lasts for days or weeks. It's usually the result of stress or a traumatic event. But some people have long-term (chronic) insomnia that lasts for a month or more. Insomnia may be the primary problem, or it may be associated with other medical conditions or medications.



If insomnia makes it hard for you to function during the day, see your doctor to identify the cause of your sleep problem and how it can be treated. If your doctor thinks you could have a sleep disorder, you might be referred to a sleep center for special testing.

Chronic insomnia may also be associated with medical conditions or the use of certain drugs. Treating the medical condition may help improve sleep, but the insomnia may persist after the medical condition improves.

Sleep is as important to your health as a healthy diet and regular physical activity. Whatever your reason for sleep loss, insomnia can affect you both mentally and physically. People with insomnia report a lower quality of life compared with people who are sleeping well.

Globally, around one-third of people experience unsatisfying sleep Trusted Source National Center for Biotechnology Information The National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information. View Source . If sleeping difficulties meet certain criteria, they are diagnosed as the sleep disorder insomnia Trusted Source American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) AASM sets standards and promotes excellence in sleep medicine health care, education, and research. View Source .

Chronic insomnia is when a person experiences sleeping difficulties and related daytime symptoms, like fatigue and attention issues, at least three days per week for more than three months or repeatedly over years. It is estimated that about 10% of people have chronic insomnia disorder.

Short-term insomnia disorder involves the same sleep difficulties and symptoms as chronic insomnia disorder, but those problems are experienced for less than three months and may not occur three times per week. It is believed that between 15% and 20% of adults experience short-term insomnia in any given year.

Often, short-term insomnia can be traced to an external cause, such as a life stressor like divorce, the death of a loved one, or a major illness. People who tend to be light sleepers are more likely to experience short-term insomnia than others.

In specific cases, a doctor may diagnose a condition called other insomnia disorder if a person has significant sleeping problems but does not meet all of the criteria for either chronic or short-term insomnia disorder. Because of its vague nature, this diagnosis is rarely used.

In the past, primary insomnia was thought to arise on its own, while secondary insomnia was viewed as resulting from another disorder. The AASM switched the diagnostic categories to chronic insomnia disorder, short-term insomnia disorder, and other insomnia disorder because these more closely reflect what has been found in relevant research studies and clinical medical practice.

The current sleep disorder classification system does not include any types of insomnia besides chronic insomnia disorder, short-term insomnia disorder, and other insomnia disorder. However, doctors and researchers may mention names that were previously used to describe subtypes of insomnia.

Up to 35% of people occasionally experience insomnia-like symptoms, such as trouble falling or staying asleep. These bouts of sleeplessness do not necessarily mean that a person has insomnia, which is a formally defined sleep disorder.

Sleep difficulties are only categorized as insomnia when they cause a person distress and begin to negatively affect aspects of their life, like work or relationships. To be classified as chronic insomnia, the symptoms must persist for at least three months.

The diagnostic criteria for insomnia do not explicitly define what it means to have difficulty falling or staying asleep. However, general guidelines suggest that insomnia may be present if an adult takes longer than 30 minutes to fall asleep or is awake for 30 minutes or more during the night. An approximately 20-minute cutoff is typically used to assess sleeping problems in children.

A doctor can ask questions to better understand your situation and order tests to determine if an insomnia diagnosis is appropriate. Symptoms of insomnia can overlap with symptoms of other sleep disorders, so it is important to work with a doctor rather than try to self-diagnose any sleeping problem.

In people with short-term insomnia, a potential complication is the development of chronic insomnia. Sometimes, people with insomnia enter into a difficult-to-break cycle in which their sleep issues exacerbate anxiety about sleep, which then worsens their sleep.

Chronic insomnia can also pose broader risks to health and wellness. If insomnia persists, it can make accidents and injury more likely Trusted Source National Library of Medicine, Biotech Information The National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information. View Source and heighten the risk of health problems like high blood pressure and depression.

Research shows that insomnia rates increased in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, with as many as 60% of people Trusted Source National Library of Medicine, Biotech Information The National Center for Biotechnology Information advances science and health by providing access to biomedical and genomic information. View Source experiencing insomnia symptoms. Some research has found a connection between these insomnia symptoms and worrying about COVID-19.

Chronic insomnia lasts for a month or longer. Most cases of chronic insomnia are secondary. This means they are the symptom or side effect of some other problem, such as certain medical conditions, medicines, and other sleep disorders. Substances such as caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol can also be a cause.

Sometimes chronic insomnia is the primary problem. This means that it is not caused by something else. Its cause is not well understood, but long-lasting stress, emotional upset, travel and shift work can be factors. Primary insomnia usually lasts more than one month.

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder. With insomnia, you may have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting good quality sleep. This happens even if you have the time and the right environment to sleep well. Insomnia can get in the way of your daily activities and may make you feel sleepy during the day.

Short-term insomnia may be caused by stress or changes in your schedule or environment. It can last for a few days or weeks. Chronic (long-term) insomnia occurs 3 or more nights a week, lasts more than 3 months, and cannot be fully explained by another health problem.

To diagnose insomnia, your healthcare provider may ask about your sleep habits and ask you to keep a sleep diary. Your provider may also recommend healthy lifestyle habits such as a regular sleep schedule, cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, and medicines to help you manage your insomnia.

Insomnia can result from a range of physical and psychological factors. Often, the cause is a temporary problem, such as short-term stress. In some other instances, insomnia stems from an underlying medical condition.

  • processing.... Drugs & Diseases > Neurology Insomnia Updated: Aug 31, 2022 Author: Jasvinder Chawla, MD, MBA; Chief Editor: Selim R Benbadis, MD more...

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Sedative-Hypnotics Antidepressants, TCAs Antidepressants, Other Orexin Antagonists Show All Questions & Answers Media Gallery References Overview Practice Essentials Insomnia is defined as repeated difficulty with sleep initiation, maintenance, consolidation, or quality that occurs despite adequate time and opportunity for sleep and that results in some form of daytime impairment. As many as 95% of Americans have reported an episode of insomnia at some point during their lives.

The AASM guidelines recommend including at least one behavioral intervention in initial treatment. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is considered the most appropriate treatment for patients with primary insomnia, though it is also effective for comorbid insomnia as adjunctive therapy. [1, 4, 5, 6, 7]

Approximately one third of adults report some difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep during the previous 12 months, with 17% reporting this problem as a significant one. [10] From 9-12% experience daytime symptoms, 15% are dissatisfied with their sleep, and 6-10% meet the diagnostic criteria of insomnia syndrome.

As many as 95% of Americans have reported an episode of insomnia at some point during their lives. [11] The 2008 update to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) guideline for the evaluation and management of chronic insomnia calls insomnia an important public health issue. [1]


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