Overview
Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that can make it hard to fall asleep, hard to stay asleep or cause you to wake up too early and not be able to get back to sleep. You may still feel tired when you wake up. Insomnia can sap not only your energy level and mood but also your health, work performance and quality of life.

How much sleep is enough varies from person to person, but most adults need seven to eight hours a night.

At some point, many adults experience short-term (acute) insomnia, which lasts for days or weeks. It’s usually the result of stress or a traumatic event. But some people have long-term (chronic) insomnia that lasts for a month or more. Insomnia may be the primary problem, or it may be associated with other medical conditions or medications.

Symtoms:
People with insomnia have one or more of the following symptoms and the sleep difficulty occurs at least 3 nights per week and is present for at least 3 months:

  • 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
  • Sleepiness during the day
  • General tiredness
  • Irritability
  • Problems with concentration or memory

Causes
Insomnia may be the primary problem, or it may be associated with other conditions.

Chronic insomnia is usually a result of stress, life events or habits that disrupt sleep. Treating the underlying cause can resolve insomnia, but sometimes it can last for years.

Common causes of chronic insomnia include:

  • Stress
  • Travel or work schedule
  • Poor sleep habits
  • Eating too much late in the evening

Chronic insomnia may also be associated with medical conditions or the use of certain drugs. Treating the medical condition may help improve sleep, but the insomnia may persist after the medical condition improves.

Additional common causes of insomnia include:

  • Mental health disorders
  • Medications
  • Medical conditions
  • Sleep-related disorders
  • Caffeine, nicotine and alcohol

Insomnia and aging
Insomnia becomes more common with age. As you get older, you may experience:

Changes in sleep patterns. Sleep often becomes less restful as you age, so noise or other changes in your environment are more likely to wake you. With age, your internal clock often advances, so you get tired earlier in the evening and wake up earlier in the morning. But older people generally still need the same amount of sleep as younger people do.

Changes in activity. You may be less physically or socially active. A lack of activity can interfere with a good night’s sleep. Also, the less active you are, the more likely you may be to take a daily nap, which can interfere with sleep at night.

Changes in health. Chronic pain from conditions such as arthritis or back problems as well as depression or anxiety can interfere with sleep. Issues that increase the need to urinate during the night ― such as prostate or bladder problems ― can disrupt sleep. Sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome become more common with age.

More medications. Older people typically use more prescription drugs than younger people do, which increases the chance of insomnia associated with medications.

Insomnia in children and teens
Sleep problems may be a concern for children and teenagers as well. However, some children and teens simply have trouble getting to sleep or resist regular bedtime because their internal clocks are more delayed. They want to go to bed later and sleep later in the morning.

Risk factors
Nearly everyone has an occasional sleepless night. But your risk of insomnia is greater if:

  • You’re a woman. Hormonal shifts during the menstrual cycle and in menopause may play a role. During menopause, night sweats and hot flashes often disrupt sleep. Insomnia is also common with pregnancy.

  • You’re over age 60. Because of changes in sleep patterns and health, insomnia increases with age.

  • You have a mental health disorder or physical health condition. Many issues that impact your mental or physical health can disrupt sleep.

  • You’re under a lot of stress. Stressful times and events can cause temporary insomnia. And major or long-lasting stress can lead to chronic insomnia.

  • You don’t have a regular schedule. For example, changing shifts at work or traveling can disrupt your sleep-wake cycle.

Complications

Sleep is as important to your health as a healthy diet and regular physical activity. Whatever your reason for sleep loss, insomnia can affect you both mentally and physically. People with insomnia report a lower quality of life compared with people who are sleeping well.

Complications of insomnia may include:

  • Lower performance on the job or at school
  • Slowed reaction time while driving and a higher risk of accidents
  • Mental health disorders, such as depression, an anxiety disorder or substance abuse
  • Increased risk and severity of long-term diseases or conditions, such as high blood pressure and heart disease

Prevention

Good sleep habits can help prevent insomnia and promote sound sleep:

  • Keep your bedtime and wake time consistent from day to day, including weekends
  • Stay active — regular activity helps promote a good night’s sleep
  • Check your medications to see if they may contribute to insomnia
  • Avoid or limit naps
  • Avoid or limit caffeine and alcohol, and don’t use nicotine
  • Avoid large meals and beverages before bedtime
  • Make your bedroom comfortable for sleep and only use it for sex or sleep
  • Create a relaxing bedtime ritual, such as taking a warm bath, reading or listening to soft music

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