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What is insomnia? In layman’s terms, it is a hell beast that doesn’t let your body rest and you wish you could physically beat it down with a sledgehammer. Insomnia goes against your will. You can absolutely want to sleep, but insomnia is like a broken ‘off’ switch for your mind.

What Is Insomnia

Scientifically though, The Sleep Foundation describes insomnia as a sleep disorder where you can’t fall asleep (sleep-onset insomnia), can’t stay asleep (sleep maintenance insomnia), or you wake up too early (also sleep maintenance insomnia).

Insomnia isn’t just not sleeping – it also not feeling rested or refreshed the next day. If you can’t fall asleep when you want and you try to catch up on sleep at times that you didn’t plan for, you have insomnia.

what is insomnia

Acute vs. Chronic Insomnia

Insomnia is further divided into acute or chronic insomnia.

Acute insomnia is quite common and happens to almost everyone at some point in their life. It only lasts one night or up to a few weeks, but sleeping habits return to normal once the temporary stress is gone. Losing sleep over things like wedding planning, fighting with your significant other, or nervousness for a presentation can cause acute insomnia.

Chronic insomnia is described as having 3 or more nights of disturbed sleep for over 3 months. This is when insomnia really starts affecting you more deeply. You may feel like you are in a constant fog, your memory isn’t what it used to be,  your emotions become more difficult to control, and other pleasant things like that.

Primary vs. Secondary Insomnia

Primary (or idiopathic) insomnia is long term chronic insomnia that begins in early childhood. It is also sometimes called “child onset insomnia”. There is no direct cause for primary insomnia, and the list below can be ruled out:

  • A medical condition (e.g., sleep apnea, narcolepsy)
  • A mood disorder (e.g., anxiety, depression)
  • Substances (e.g., medications, drugs)

Secondary insomnia, on the other hand, is attributed to one of the above (a medical condition, mood disorder, or substances).

For reference, this blog focuses on secondary insomnia caused by mood disorders. Particularly, stress and anxiety.

What Insomnia is NOT

Anyone who chooses to stay awake is not suffering from insomnia. If you choose to stay awake because there is a new season of Game of Thrones on, you are not an insomniac. If you stay up all night studying for an exam but sleep fine the next night, you are not an insomniac.

Some Facts About Insomnia

Insomnia is a pretty common sleep problem for adults. The National Institutes of Health estimates that 30 percent of the population experiences it, and approximately 10 percent have symptoms of daytime functional impairment (like memory loss) associated with insomnia.

Nearly 50% of the people in a 2005 National Sleep Foundation poll reported to have at least one symptom of insomnia within that year. Of those respondents, over 30% said they experienced symptoms of insomnia every night or almost every night in that year. The main culprits were not feeling rested the next day and waking up frequently.

Women experience insomnia more than men. This can be attributed to hormonal chances with menstrual cycles, pregnancy, and menopause.

Insomniacs are twice as likely to abuse alcohol than non-insomniacs.

So there ya go.

What is insomnia – in a nutshell. Stick around and I’ll give you a lot of tips on how to overcome insomnia.

Not sure if you have insomnia?

Download the “Do I Have Chronic Insomnia?” Quiz