Most of us have experienced brief periods of insomnia (also called acute insomnia). Almost everyone knows what it feels like to still be awake staring at the ceiling and wishing for sleep—this can happen when you travel and experience jet lag, or when you’re anxious and overwhelmed by life circumstances.

Insomnia is characterized by an inability to sleep and/or to remain asleep for a reasonable period. Insomniacs typically complain of being unable to close their eyes or “rest their mind” for more than a few minutes at a time. Insomnia is a symptom, though a common misconception is that it is itself a sleep disorder. Insomnia is most often caused by sleep disorders, but other causes include fear, stress, anxiety, medications, herbs, and caffeine. An overactive mind or physical pain may also be a cause. Finding the underlying cause of insomnia is usually necessary to cure it.

Types of Insomnia

There are three types of insomnia:

Transient Insomnia

This version of insomnia can last anything from a few days to a week, can be triggered by various factors (such as, excess environmental noise, medications, and extreme temperatures – either hot or cold). One type of transient insomnia experienced by avid travellers is jet lag, in which traveling through time zones causes a temporary disruption of the body’s circadian rhythm.

Acute Insomnia

Acute insomnia has a sudden onset, and may last for several weeks. Common triggers of acute insomnia include emotional stress or conflict, environmental changes such as moving house or job, or anxiety associated with going to bed. Acute insomnia can also be triggered by the same things that trigger transient insomnia (as stated above).

Chronic Insomnia

This type of insomnia can have detrimental effects on a person’s health, quality of life, productivity, and safety, and can last anything from months to years at a time. Insomnia listing for more than 3 months should be evaluated by sleep doctors to exclude common sleep disorders such an Obstructive Sleep Apnea OSA and Upper Airways Resistance syndrome.

Symptoms of Insomnia

People with insomnia have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Difficulty staying asleep
  • Waking up too early in the morning
  • Unrefreshing sleep
  • Fatigue or low energy
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Mood disturbance
  • Behavior problems
  • Difficulty at work or school
  • Difficulty in personal relationships

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