Insomnia is the inability to get adequate, restful sleep. Its symptoms include one or more of the following:

  • Difficulty falling asleep at bedtime.
    Waking up frequently during the night and having trouble falling back to sleep.
  • Waking up too early in the morning.
  • Not getting “quality” sleep that enables you to feel refreshed for the following day, even though you may be sleeping for an adequate amount of time each night.

While research shows adults require about seven to eight hours of sleep each day, sleep needs are highly individual. What matters is whether your sleep is restful and enables you to be active and alert during the day. Researchers estimate that 30 percent to 40 percent of people have some level of insomnia in any given year. Insomnia is more common in women than in men, and it tends to increase with age.

Acute (short-term) insomnia

Insomnia is called “acute,” or “transient,” if it occurs only occasionally and is short-term (lasting only a few nights and for less than four weeks). Acute insomnia is usually caused by a specific, usually temporary, circumstance such as a stressful day, physical discomfort, or a disruption of your “body clock,” such as when you have jet lag or work the night shift

Chronic insomnia

Insomnia that continues for three or more nights a week and lasts a month or more is considered to be chronic (meaning long-term or constant). About 10 percent to 15 percent of adults suffer from chronic insomnia. Whereas most people can get by with an occasional bout of troubled sleep, chronic insomnia requires a doctor’s care. Chronic insomnia is usually the result of complex factors and can be a symptom of major depression.

Some consequences of insomnia

Getting enough sleep is essential for your health and happiness. Medical studies have documented that insomnia has negative effects on mood and causes daytime sleepiness, irritability, lack of energy and difficulty concentrating. Clearly, the effects of insomnia can interfere with your daily activities, your relationships and your job performance. Insomnia may also cause physical danger. Drowsiness, for instance, is a factor in many car crashes, according to the National Commission on Sleep Disorders Research.

by David N. Neubauer, M.D., originally posted at

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