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If you have insomnia, you may have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, waking too early, or getting good quality sleep that leaves you feeling rested. Instead, you don’t feel refreshed when you wake up. During the day, you’re sleepy and tired and have trouble functioning.

Many Americans struggle with sleep problems. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), over 25 percent of Americans don’t get enough sleep from time to time, but almost 10% have chronic insomnia.

Insomnia can be acute, meaning short-term. Or it can come in a long-lasting, chronic form. When insomnia comes at least three nights a week for one month or longer, doctors consider it chronic.

Insomnia can also come and go, with periods when you have no sleep problems. 

Types of Insomnia

Two kinds of insomnia exist:

Primary insomnia: Sleep problems are not directly connected with any other health problem. Instead, they are triggered by major stress, emotional upset, travel, and work schedules. But even after such causes go away, the insomnia may persist. You can also develop primary insomnia because of certain habits, such as taking naps or worrying about sleep.  

Secondary insomnia: Sleep problems occur because of another issue, such as a health condition or disease, chronic pain from arthritis or headaches, medications, or alcohol, caffeine, and other substances.

What Are the Causes of Insomnia?

Many factors can cause acute or chronic insomnia:

  • Stress (including job change or loss, moving, death of a loved one)   
  • Medical condition or disease (including depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, asthma, cancer, heartburn, heart failure, overactive thyroid, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and other health problems)   
  • Pain or physical discomfort  
  • Medications  
  • Noise, light or extreme temperatures  
  • Interference with one’s regular sleep schedule (including jet lag or switching work shifts)  
  • Substance abuse

What Are the Symptoms of Insomnia?

If you have insomnia, you may have some of these symptoms:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Difficulty staying asleep
  • Waking up too early
  • Feeling tired and irritable
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Mood changes
  • Lack of motivation
  • Attention, concentration, or memory problems
  • Making errors at work, school, or while driving
  • Tension headaches or stomach aches
  • Frustration or worry about sleep

How is Insomnia Diagnosed?

To diagnose insomnia, your doctor will ask about your sleep patterns and habits, stress levels, medical history, level of physical activity, and use of medications, alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, and illegal substances. He or she might also ask you to keep a detailed log of your sleep habits, including sleep and wake times, napping, and any specific problems with sleeping.  

Your doctor will also do a physical exam to look for health disorders that can cause insomnia.

If your insomnia persists even after treatment, your doctor may refer you to a sleep disorders specialist for an evaluation. If the specialist suspects a disorder, such as sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome, you may need to do an overnight sleep study at home or at a special sleep center. 

Myths and Facts About Insomnia

Wide awake again? Get the facts and put these insomnia myths to bed.
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