Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Font Size

Understanding Insomnia -- the Basics

What Is Insomnia?

You can't fall asleep. Or you keep waking up during the night, or too early in the morning. And you don't feel refreshed when it's time to get up.

That's insomnia. It's very common, and it can happen for many reasons.

Recommended Related to Sleep Disorders

How to Pick Your Perfect Mattress

Getting a good night's sleep depends on a lot of different factors -- comfort, stress level, room temperature – but to get it right, you've got to start with the basics and your mattress is the first building block to a restful slumber. If you're in the market for a new mattress and have recently taken a stroll down the aisle of a bedding store, you know that there is a dizzying array from which to choose. How do you know which mattress is best for you? To start, says Arya Nick Shamie, MD, associate...

Read the How to Pick Your Perfect Mattress article > >

For some people, insomnia only lasts a few nights and then their sleep gets back on track. This might happen when you have jet lag.

Others have "short-term" insomnia, which lasts less than a month. For instance, an accountant who works extra hours and feels stressed during tax season might have rocky sleep until the April 15 deadline passes.

Chronic insomnia lasts longer than a month. That's the most likely kind to be linked to a health problem, but it could also be due to your sleep habits.


Some of the most common causes of insomnia are simple. Do you:

  • Keep odd hours?
  • Nap during the day?
  • Drink too much coffee or alcohol?
  • Stay up late because you're working, doing chores, or watching something online?
  • Worry about something that's going on in your life?
  • Not feel comfortable in your bed or bedroom?

Other things that can hamper your sleep include:

Some physical illnesses, especially problems with the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, pancreas, and digestive system. Heartburn, chronic pain, and breathing problems such as sleep apnea are common causes of insomnia. Diabetes and restless legs syndrome can cause people to wake up during the night.

Mental health problems are also rough on sleep. Depression can cause insomnia, and people with anxiety, schizophrenia, and other psychiatric disorders may also have trouble sleeping.

Medications. Over-the-counter drugs and prescription medications --  including some blood pressure medicines, heart drugs, and thyroid hormones -- can interfere with sleep. So can the misuse of sleeping pills.

Jet lag and changing shift-work schedules. These throw off your "body clock." Most people adjust to their new schedule eventually.

Menopause can disrupt sleep with hot flashes or night sweats.

Pregnancy often makes it harder to sleep. It may partly be due to hormones, and, especially later in pregnancy, trouble finding a comfortable sleep position.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on March 22, 2015

Today on WebMD

fatigued senior woman
We’ve got 10 tips to show you how
Man snoring in bed
Know your myths from your facts.
Young woman sleeping
What do your dreams say about you?
woman eith hangover
It’s common, and really misunderstood.
Young woman sleeping
Cannot sleep
child sitting in bed
Woman with insomnia
nurse sleeping
Foods That Help Or Harm Your Sleep
Insomnia 20 Tips For Better Sleep
Pain at Night