Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep, remain asleep or sleep restfully through the night. It may include consistently awakening too early. It can last a few days or a couple of weeks and is considered a chronic problem if it lasts more than 3 weeks.

Insomnia is often the symptom of another medical problem or stress. Insomnia is especially common among the elderly and women. Women are twice as likely to suffer from insomnia than men.

Insomnia can cause problems during the day such as excessive sleepiness, fatigue, trouble thinking clearly or staying focused or feeling depressed or irritable. It is not defined by the number of hours you sleep every night. Although the amount of sleep a person needs varies, most people need between 7 and 8 hours of sleep a night.

If you think you have insomnia, talk to your doctor. It might be helpful to complete a sleep diary for a week or two, noting your sleep patterns, your daily routine and how you feel during the day. Discuss the results of your sleep diary with your doctor. He or she may do a physical exam and take a medical history and sleep history. Your doctor may also want to talk to your bed partner to ask how much and how well you are sleeping. In some cases, you may be referred to a sleep center for special tests. Treatment for chronic insomnia includes:

  • Finding and treating any medical conditions or mental health problems.
  • Looking for routines or behaviors, like drinking alcohol at night, that may lead to the insomnia or make it worse, and stopping (or reducing) them.
  • Trying one or more methods to improve sleep, such as relaxation therapy, sleep restriction therapy and reconditioning.
  • Medication: You should consult your doctor to weigh the risks and benefits.