Insomnia is a sleep disorder characterized by difficulty falling and/or staying asleep.  People with insomnia may have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Sleepiness during the day
  • General tiredness
  • Irritability
  • Problems with concentration or memory
  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Waking up often during the night and having trouble going back to sleep
  • Waking up too early in the morning
  • Feeling tired upon waking

Types of Insomnia

Primary Insomnia
Primary insomnia indicates sleep problems that are not directly associated with any other health condition.

Secondary Insomnia
Secondary insomnia indicates sleep problems caused by a health condition (such as asthma, depression, arthritis, cancer, or heartburn), pain, medication, or substance abuse.


Acute vs Chronic

Insomnia can vary in both duration and frequency.  It 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 one night to a few weeks. Insomnia is called chronic when a person has insomnia at least three nights a week for a month or longer.


Causes of Acute Insomnia may include:

  • Significant life stress (job loss or change, death of a loved one, divorce, moving)
  • Illness
  • Emotional or physical discomfort
  • Environmental factors like noise, light, or extreme temperatures (hot or cold) that interfere with sleep
  • Some medications (for example those used to treat colds, allergies, depression, high blood pressure, and asthma) may interfere with sleep
  • Interferences in normal sleep schedule (jet lag or switching from a day to night shift, for example)

Causes of Chronic Insomnia may include:

  • Depression and/or anxiety
  • Chronic stress
  • Pain or discomfort at night


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