Home » Sleep Disorders » Insomnia
September 2020  |  Reviewed by:  Andrea Matsumura, MD and Virginia Skiba, MD

What is Insomnia?

Insomnia is the most common sleep complaint. It occurs when you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep even though you had the opportunity to get a full night of sleep. The causes, symptoms and severity of insomnia vary from person to person. Insomnia may include:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Difficulty staying asleep throughout the night
  • Waking up too early in the morning

Insomnia involves both a sleep disturbance and daytime symptoms. The effects of insomnia can impact nearly every aspect of your life. Studies show that insomnia negatively affects work performance, impairs decision making and can damage relationships. Insomnia can affect your mood and make other medical conditions more difficult to manage. In most cases, people with insomnia report a worse overall quality of life.

Everyone has the occasional night of poor sleep. This does not mean you have insomnia. In many cases it means you may have stayed up too late, gotten up too early or woken up in the middle of the night. Stress is a common cause of a night of poor sleep.

As many as 35 percent of adults complain of insomnia. It is more common in groups such as older adults, women, people under stress and people with certain medical and mental health problems such as depression.

Types of Insomnia

There are two types of insomnia based on the regularity and duration of the sleep disturbance and daytime symptoms:

  • Short-term insomnia: This type of insomnia lasts for up to three months. At any given time, it occurs in 15 to 20 percent of people.
  • Chronic insomnia: This type of insomnia occurs at least three times per week and lasts for at least three months. About 10 percent of people have chronic insomnia.

A sleep doctor diagnoses chronic insomnia. A sleep doctor helps to make sure there is nothing else in your sleep causing chronic insomnia. Options for treatment of chronic insomnia are best discussed with a sleep doctor. The sleep team at an accredited sleep center can provide ongoing care.

What are Symptoms of Insomnia?

Symptoms and causes of insomnia can vary. Insomnia symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Problems with attention, concentration or memory
  • Poor performance at school or work
  • Moodiness or irritability
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Rash actions or aggression
  • Lack of energy or motivation
  • Errors or accidents
  • Concern or frustration about your sleep