What is Insomnia?

by Martin Reed Patient Advocate

If you are beginning to have sleepless nights you may be wondering if you have insomnia. You may also be wondering exactly what insomnia is and how long you can expect to deal with it.

The definition of insomnia is difficulty in falling asleep, staying asleep, and/or waking up too early with the inability to go back to sleep.

While insomnia is a common condition suffered by many and the definition of it is simple, the condition itself is complex.

Acute insomnia is the type of insomnia that occurs because of circumstances in life. Examples can include receiving bad news, anxiety over something such as a test or interview that may be on the horizon, family pressures, a traumatic event, and so on.

Acute insomnia can last for a few days or weeks. It generally subsides and passes on its own once the circumstance has resolved itself. Treatment is generally not needed.

Chronic insomnia is different. When you have chronic insomnia, you experience disrupted sleep for a minimum of three nights per week over a four week period (or longer).

The cause of chronic insomnia varies from person to person and may be the result of mental or physical conditions, certain medications, the environment, the development of unhealthy sleeping habits, shift work, and a whole host of other causes.

Chronic insomnia does not usually go away by itself. Once the cause of your insomnia is determined, treatment options can be put in place for the insomnia.

  • Individuals who are faced with a lot of stress either personally or professionally.

  • Individuals who are going through emotional distress because of a major life change such as the loss of a loved one, a divorce, the chronic illness of a loved one, or any other sort of situation that radically changes day-to-day living.

  • Individuals who deal with depression or who have anxiety issues.

  • Individuals who have low incomes.

  • Individuals who work the night shift or a swing shift.

  • Individuals who have medical conditions or sleep disorders that are known to disrupt sleep.

  • Individuals who are in and out of different time zones on a regular basis.

If you have been dealing with sleep issues, you are encouraged to seek out help if it persists for more than a few weeks.

It is easier for professionals to determine the cause of it early-on rather than months down the road. Insomnia can bring about a host of symptoms such as depression and other mental and physical issues if left untreated. It is not something to be ignored.

Martin Reed
Meet Our Writer
Martin Reed

Martin is the creator of Insomnia Coach, an eight-week course that combines online sleep education with individual sleep coaching. His course helps clients improve their sleep so they can enjoy a better life with more energy and start each day feeling happy, healthy, rested, and refreshed. Martin also runs a free sleep training course that has helped over 5,000 insomniacs. He holds a master’s degree in health and wellness education and studied clinical sleep health at the University of Delaware.