What Does Insomnia Mean? Your Insomnia Questions, Answered

Updated August 28, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Tonia Cassaday

Insomnia is something that you may have heard of, but you aren’t exactly sure what the meaning is. Insomnia is a condition that affects your sleep, which can impinge on other parts of your life as well. Here is a look at insomnia, how insomnia can affect you and your body, and answers to other questions you may find yourself wondering about.

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What is insomnia?

Insomnia is a sleep disorder, which is characterized by not being able to fall asleep, stay asleep, or not getting quality sleep. People with insomnia may have an issue with each of these problems, which can be problematic in terms of health and productivity.

People with insomnia may end up losing sleep for many nights a week, and that can really take a toll on your routine, your life, your work, and the way you interact with others. When these things start to happen, you may wonder what causes insomnia and what can be done to lessen the effects.

What are the causes of insomnia?

There are a few possible causes that are thought to contribute to insomnia.

  • At times, people who experience insomnia are also under a large amount of stress. Stress and worrying about certain factors of your life may cause you to be unable to sleep. Moreover, if someone is experiencing too much anxiety, they may experience insomnia.
  • People with insomnia sometimes have depression, as well. Insomnia can be a symptom of depression, in some cases.
  • Another ailment. People that have existing medical conditions, especially chronic pain, can experience insomnia. If you have chronic pain, you must get your pain appropriately treated or see a doctor make sure that you are in good health. Additionally, if you have a medical condition and you are taking prescriptions, one of these may cause insomnia. You will have to check the side effects for your orders to know for sure.

What are the symptoms of insomnia?

There are a few symptoms of insomnia that you may want to keep an eye on.

  • Unable to go to sleep or stay asleep
  • Waking up too early each day
  • Getting the sleep that is poor quality
  • Low energy
  • Problems with concentration
  • Changes in mood

Are there different types of insomnia?

There are a few types of insomnia, which differ in terms of how long your symptoms last. They are the following:

Acute Insomnia

This type of insomnia doesn’t last for very long and generally clears up without treatment. The cause is usually a stressful event. Frequently, after a person goes through a significant change in their life or they experience a sudden loss, they may develop insomnia for a while, until the shock of the event wears off.

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Chronic Insomnia

Chronic insomnia occurs when you experience insomnia for a few days a week for a few weeks. This insomnia may be caused by medical conditions, changes in routine and sleeping patterns, or something else, like working long shifts at a job. Chronic insomnia needs to be treated to clear up properly.

Comorbid Insomnia

This is the name for insomnia that occurs when there is another condition present as well. A study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine states that nearly half of people with insomnia also suffer from another type of disorder. The most common diseases they may be faced with are depression or an anxiety disorder. If this is the case for you, you should seek out treatment at your first opportunity.

What are the risk factors for insomnia?

There are a few risk factors, which are thought to contribute to contracting insomnia.

  • Being a woman. The changes in a woman’s hormones may be the reason why there’s a prevalence of insomnia in women. Many changes take place in the female body, in regards to the menstrual cycle, menopause, and pregnancy.
  • Being older in age. Older people are also more likely to develop insomnia than younger people. This might be due to the fact that they have different sleeping patterns than others do, or because they usually have additional health issues.
  • Too much stress. People that experience constant levels of stress are more likely to suffer from insomnia.
  • Suffer from another mental or physical health issue. There are many reasons why another health condition can cause you to experience insomnia. You may have too much pain, or not being able to sleep may be a side effect of a treatment you are taking advantage of.
  • Erratic sleep schedule. If you don’t have healthy sleeping habits anyway, you may have a hard time when you try to sleep at night. You should stick to a sleep schedule when you can.
  • Being sedentary. When you live a life where you don’t exercise or eat right, this can lead to the development of insomnia. It is essential to eat as healthy as you can since the vitamins and nutrients in foods are beneficial to your health and allow all of your body’s systems to function correctly.
  • Traveling a lot. At times, a person’s schedule calls for them to go a lot, whether for work or pleasure. When you are in different time zones often, this is something that may confuse your internal clock. In turn, this can possibly lead to you losing sleep or being unable to sleep.

Can insomnia be prevented?

There is a chance that insomnia can be prevented. Here’s a look at ways that may be the key to keeping insomnia away. These techniques can be used to help you create a routine that is easy to follow.

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  • Don’t take naps.
  • Go to sleep at the same time each day.
  • Get moving during the day, exercise when it is possible.
  • Stay away from caffeine as much as you can.
  • Don’t eat or drink right before you intend to go to sleep.
  • Limit your television and screen time before bed.
  • Make your bedroom comfortable, so sleeping will be easier to accomplish.

What are the treatments for insomnia?

Depending on the duration of your insomnia, you will need to seek out treatment to see relief. Treatments for insomnia include medical and psychotherapy types.


Some medicines can be used to treat insomnia. You will need to talk to your doctor about this to see what the proper course of action is. Together you will be able to determine how to make the next step, and hopefully, you can begin to sleep better again. Be sure to check out the side effects of the pills that a doctor prescribes and check the ones that you already take to ensure they are not causing you to be unable to sleep.

Psychological Treatment

Another type of treatment that may be able to alleviate the burden of insomnia is psychotherapy. Research shows states that psychological treatment can be effective for insomnia and other sleeping problems. People being treated for insomnia might be able to learn better habits for sleeping and coping with stress, which can help them improve many aspects of their health.

When it comes to therapy for treating insomnia, online therapy is sometimes utilized. A 2019 study shows that this technique can be very effective, with nearly half of all participants seeing an increase in the amount of sleep they got during treatment.

If this sounds like something you would like to utilize, you may want to try the online counseling platform BetterHelp. They will be able to help you work through your insomnia, and you can get the treatment you need in the privacy of your own space. You may access BetterHelp from the comfort of your own home.

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Insomnia is prevalent and is often no cause for concern. The mildest type of insomnia can clear up without treatment. However, when insomnia starts to interfere with your sleep for weeks at a time, you may want to consider getting help to start sleeping like you should.

There are options out there for you concerning treatment, and there are a few ways to prevent insomnia from occurring as well. Of course, you cannot take away all the stresses of life, but you may be able to learn to cope with them better, especially when you are in the process of taking advantage of psychotherapy.

Another thing to note is that you must speak with your doctor to rule out physical ailments and the effects of prescription pills, which may be causing your insomnia. These are things that you should pay attention to closely, and keep your eye on when you start losing sleep suddenly.

Be sure to seek treatment for your insomnia whenever you notice changes in your routine and mood. This is the best way to prevent severe types of insomnia, such as chronic insomnia, and you may be able to get back to sleep. Sleeping properly is so important to your mind and your body, so it should never be taken for granted. Do everything you can to get the right amount of sleep, and when you can’t, reach out for the help you need.

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