Insomnia is a common sleep complaint that occurs when you have one or more of these problems:

  • You have a hard time initiating sleep.

  • You struggle to maintain sleep, waking up frequently during the night.

  • You tend to wake up too early and are unable to go back to sleep.

  • You sleep is nonrestorative or of poor quality.


These symptoms of insomnia can be caused by a variety of biological, psychological and social factors. They most often result in an inadequate amount of sleep, even though the sufferer has the opportunity to get a full night of sleep. Insomnia is different from sleep deprivation, which occurs when an individual does not have the opportunity to get a full night of sleep. A small percentage of people who have trouble sleeping are actually short sleepers who can function normally on only five hours of sleep or less.


There are two types of insomnia – primary and secondary. Primary insomnia is sleeplessness that cannot be attributed to an existing medial, psychiatric or environmental cause (such as drug abuse or medications). Secondary insomnia is when symptoms of insomnia arise from a primary medical illness, mental disorders or other sleep disorders. It may also arise from the use, abuse or exposure to certain substances.



  • About 30 percent of adults have symptoms of insomnia

  • About 10 percent of adults have insomnia that is severe enough to cause daytime consequences

  • Less than 10 percent of adults are likely to have chronic insomnia


Risk Groups

  • A high rate of insomnia is seen in middle-aged and older adults. Although your individual sleep need does not change as you age, physical problems can make it more difficult to sleep well.

  • Women are more likely than men to develop insomnia.

  • People who have a medical or psychiatric illness, including depression, are at risk for insomnia.

  • People who use medications may experience insomnia as a side-effect.




  • Fatigue

  • Moodiness

  • Irritability or anger

  • Daytime sleepiness

  • Anxiety about sleep

  • Lack of concentration

  • Poor Memory

  • Poor quality performance at school or work

  • Lack of motivation or energy

  • Headaches or tension

  • Upset stomach

  • Mistakes/accidents at work or while driving


Severe daytime sleepiness typically is an effect of sleep deprivation and is less common with insomnia. People with insomnia often underestimate the amount of sleep they get each night. They worry that their inability to sleep will affect their health and keep them from functioning well during the day. Often, however, they are able to perform well during the day despite feeling tired. ©AASM 2008