Insomnia: Symptoms and Causes
Insomnia is a sleep disorder that is characterized by difficulty falling and/or staying asleep. People with this sleep disorder have one or more of the following insomnia symptoms:
- 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
- Irritability and problems with concentration or memory
Insomnia can be its own medical problem (primary insomnia) or it can be caused by a separate issue (secondary insomnia) such as depression or side effects from medication. Insomnia may be an acute (short-term) problem, meaning it lasts less than 1 month, or it can be chronic, lasting 1 month or longer.
Situations that may cause a period of acute insomnia can include:
- Stress (for example, job loss or change, death of a loved one, divorce, or moving)
- 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)
- Interferences in normal sleep schedule (for example, jet lag or switching from a day to night shift)
Causes of chronic insomnia include:
- Depression and/or anxiety
- Chronic stress
- Pain or discomfort at night
Reviewed by: The Sleep Medicine Center at The Cleveland Clinic.
Reviewed by Cynthia Dennison Haines, MD
SOURCES: The National Sleep Foundation. American Insomnia Association.