Most adults have experienced insomnia or sleeplessness at one time or another in their lives. However, some of the general population have chronic insomnia.
Insomnia is a symptom, not a stand-alone diagnosis or a disease. By definition, insomnia is "difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep, or both" or the perception of poor quality sleep. Insomnia may therefore be due to inadequate quality or quantity of sleep. Insomnia is not defined by a specific number of hours of sleep that one gets, since individuals vary widely in their sleep needs and practices. Although most of us know what insomnia is and how we feel and perform after one or more sleepless nights, few seek medical advice. Many people remain unaware of the behavioral and medical options available to treat insomnia.
Insomnia is generally classified based on the duration of the problem. Not everyone agrees on one definition, but generally:
- symptoms lasting less than one week are classified as transient insomnia,
- symptoms between one to three weeks are classified as short-term insomnia, and
- those longer than three weeks are classified as chronic insomnia.
Statistics on Insomnia
Insomnia affects all age groups. Among adults, insomnia affects women more often than men. The incidence tends to increase with age. It is typically more common in people in lower socioeconomic (income) groups, chronic alcoholics, and mental health patients. Stress most commonly triggers short-term or acute insomnia. If you do not address your insomnia, however, it may develop into chronic insomnia.
Some surveys have shown that about a third of Americans reported difficulty falling asleep during the previous year and a significant percentage reported problems with long standing insomnia. There seems to be an association between depression, anxiety, and insomnia. Although the nature of this association is unknown, people with depression or anxiety were significantly more likely to develop insomnia.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/8/2014
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