by EBSCO Medical Review Board

Insomnia is a sleep disorder. It may make it hard to fall asleep, stay asleep, or get restful sleep. It may be:

  • Short-term (acute)⏤lasts a few days to a few weeks
  • Long-term (chronic)⏤lasts more than 4 weeks

Insomnia may cause problems during the day, such as:

  • Tiredness
  • Problems focusing
  • Irritability

Insomnia is not a disease. It is the symptom of an underlying mental or physical problem. There are many causes of insomnia.

Short-term insomnia is often due to temporary situations. It often happens to people who have:

  • A life crisis or stress
  • A change in the sleep environment, including:
  • Noise
  • Light, or
  • Temperature
  • Sleep/wake schedule problems⏤such as with jet lag or shift work
  • Side effects of medicine

Long term insomnia often results from a medical condition. Examples include:

Long term insomnia may be caused by lifestyle or behaviors. These may include:

  • Misuse of nicotine , , alcohol , or other substances
  • Disrupted sleep/wake cycles⏤from shift work or other nighttime activity schedules
  • Long term stress

For some people, insomnia is aggravated by 2 common responses:

  • Worry about sleeping, or
  • Excessive napping in the afternoon or evening
What are the risk factors for insomnia?What are the symptoms of insomnia?How is insomnia diagnosed?What are the treatments for insomnia?Are there screening tests for insomnia?How can I reduce my risk of insomnia?What questions should I ask my doctor?Where can I get more information about insomnia?


Insomnia. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: Accessed March 14, 2022.

Insomnia. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: Accessed March 14, 2022.

Insomnia. National Sleep Foundation website. Available at: Accessed March 14, 2022.

Insomnia in adults. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed March 14, 2022.

Patel D, Steinberg J, Patel P. Insomnia in the elderly: A Review. J Clin Sleep Med. 2018;14(6):1017-1024.

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