What is Insomnia?

Insomnia is a symptom which can accompany several sleep, medical and psychiatric disorders, characterized by persistent difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep despite the opportunity.

Insomnia is typically followed by functional impairment while awake. Both organic and non-organic insomnia without other cause constitute a sleep disorder, primary insomnia.

One definition of insomnia is "difficulties initiating and/or maintaining sleep, or nonrestorative sleep, associated with impairments of daytime functioning or marked distress for more than 1 month."

According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services in the year 2007, approximately 64 million Americans regularly suffer from insomnia each year. Insomnia is 1.4 times more common in women than in men.

The National Sleep Foundation's 2002 ''Sleep in America'' poll showed that 58% of adults in the U.S. experienced symptoms of insomnia a few nights a week or more. Although insomnia was the most common sleep problem among about one half of older adults (48%), they were less likely to experience frequent symptoms of insomnia than their younger counterparts (45% vs. 62%), and their symptoms were more likely to be associated with medical conditions, according to the 2003 poll of adults between the ages of 55 and 84.

Types of insomnia

Although there are several different degrees of insomnia, three types of insomnia have been clearly identified: transient, acute, and chronic.

  1. Transient insomnia lasts from days to weeks. It can be caused by another disorder, by changes in the sleep environment, by the timing of sleep, severe depression, or by stress. Its consequences - sleepiness and impaired psychomotor performance - are similar to those of sleep deprivation.
  2. Acute insomnia is the inability to consistently sleep well for a period of between three weeks to six months.
  3. Chronic insomnia lasts for years at a time. It can be caused by another disorder, or it can be a primary disorder. Its effects can vary according to its causes. They might include sleepiness, muscular fatigue, hallucinations, and/or mental fatigue; but people with chronic insomnia often show increased alertness. Some people that live with this disorder see things as if they are happening in slow motion, wherein moving objects seem to blend together. Can cause double vision.

Further Reading


This article is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article on "Insomnia" All material adapted used from Wikipedia is available under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. Wikipedia® itself is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation, Inc.

Last Updated: Sep 16, 2014

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