If you have trouble falling or staying asleep or experience fatigue even after a night’s rest, you may have insomnia. Here’s what to know about this sleep disorder.

Insomnia is a very common sleep disorder. People with insomnia may:

  • find it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep
  • wake up from a night’s sleep still feeling tired
  • experience fatigue and trouble functioning during the day

As many as 3 in 10 adults report some insomnia symptoms, according to 2022 research. In a 2016 study, about one-third of adults sampled met the criteria for chronic insomnia: experiencing symptoms more than 3 times a day for more than 3 months.

Whether your symptoms are mild or severe, you may wonder if you have this sleep disorder. Here’s what to know.

You might have insomnia if you:

  • take a long time to fall asleep after going to bed
  • spend a lot of the night awake or worrying
  • wake up too early and can’t go back to sleep
  • tend to experience disrupted sleep

Poor sleep can lead to symptoms like:

If you experience some of these symptoms for at least 3 days a week for at least 3 months, you might have chronic insomnia. If untreated, this condition can disrupt your day-to-day life.

A doctor can diagnose you with this disorder and help you find a suitable treatment.

Yes, you can still have insomnia if you sleep during the day.

Since everyone has varying sleep needs, insomnia isn’t defined by how long you sleep. Instead, it’s diagnosed by assessing the quality of your sleep and how you feel afterward.

So, even if you sleep 8 hours during the daytime but still feel groggy all the time, you might have insomnia.

If you lie awake worrying at night, you might wonder whether you have insomnia or anxiety.

You may have anxiety if you:

  • feel chronically tense or worried
  • experience frequent rapid heart rate
  • experience heightened blood pressure
  • sweat a lot
  • get dizzy often
  • feel weak or lethargic often
  • have difficulty concentrating on anything but your worries
  • have stomach issues

You may have insomnia if you:

  • have trouble falling asleep
  • struggle to stay asleep
  • feel chronically tired

Since the conditions often happen concurrently, you might have both conditions at the same time.

One condition may also onset or worsen the symptoms of the other. For example, if you can’t fall asleep due to anxious thoughts, you may have symptoms from a lack of sleep. But if you’re unable to get enough rest due to other factors, you may feel anxious.

If your sleep issues are impacting your everyday quality of life, you may want to visit a healthcare professional for a thorough diagnosis. A clinical diagnosis is based on:

  • whether your sleep problems occur despite sleeping in a safe, dark environment
  • whether symptoms occur for at least 3 days/week for at least 3 months
  • whether you have significant issues falling or staying asleep or daytime dysfunction

During an appointment, a doctor will try to identify the cause of your issues by:

  • performing a physical exam
  • learning about your sleep habits
  • learning about any medications or supplements you take
  • taking into account your lifestyle habits and concurrent conditions (like anxiety, depression, or chronic pain)

Your doctor may also encourage you to keep a sleep diary to help pinpoint the cause of your sleep problems.

Many factors can contribute to acute insomnia. It’s often linked to:

Chronic insomnia is often linked to:

Although insomnia can happen at any stage of life, it most often occurs in older adulthood. As many as three-quarters of older adults report experiencing some insomnia symptoms, according to 2020 research.

Other common risk factors for insomnia include:

  • high stress levels
  • lack of physical activity
  • shift work or an irregular sleep schedule
  • taking frequent naps
  • drinking a lot of coffee
  • using alcohol, tobacco, or other substances

There are many at-home and medical treatments for insomnia. What works best for you might depend on the cause of your insomnia, your lifestyle, and your personal preferences.

Potential treatments include:

  • Therapy: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) in particular, can be an effective way to treat insomnia. According to 2015 research, CBT is as effective or more effective than sleep medication for treating chronic insomnia.
  • Journaling: Writing down your fears, worries, or concerns before bed can help you clear your mind before you drift off. Journaling is also often a part of CBT.
  • Stimulus control: Controlling stimuli can help your body rest more easily. Examples include not using any digital devices in bed or leaving your room for a while if you can’t drift off in a set time frame.
  • Sleep schedule adjustments: Falling asleep and getting up at the same time every day may improve your sleep quality. Avoiding naps and limiting the time you spend in bed can also help.
  • Relaxation techniques: Meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, and other strategies can help you relax before bedtime.
  • Medication: There are lots of prescriptions (i.e., Ambien, Lunesta, and Sonata) and over-the-counter medications and supplements (i.e., Benadryl, melatonin) used to treat insomnia. Keep in mind that experts typically advise against long-term sleeping pill use due to side effects like forgetfulness, sleepwalking, and daytime fatigue.
  • Paradoxical intention: Paradoxically, letting go of the expectation of falling asleep may help you drift off more easily. This can ease worries and is a useful tool for treating learned insomnia.
  • Avoiding stimulants: Limiting the use of substances like caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco may improve sleep quality.
  • Treating underlying medical conditions: Treating other health conditions like diabetes or chronic pain may help treat your insomnia.

Some sleep issues from time to time are common. But if yours persist for longer than 3 days/week for more than 3 months, you may have chronic insomnia.

Practicing good sleep hygiene, going to therapy, and limiting stimulants are some ways to help treat this condition. If your symptoms impact your day-to-day quality of life, consider visiting a doctor for a thorough assessment and diagnosis.