What is insomnia?

Insomnia is a problem with sleep. People with insomnia have trouble falling or staying asleep, or they do not feel rested when they wake up. Insomnia is not about the number of hours of sleep a person gets. Everyone needs a different amount of sleep.

Short-term insomnia is when a person has trouble sleeping for a few days or weeks. This is usually related to temporary stress and often gets better on its own. Long-term or "chronic" insomnia is when sleep problems last for 3 months or longer.

What are the symptoms of insomnia?

People with insomnia often:

  • Have trouble falling or staying asleep
  • Feel tired during the day
  • Forget things or have trouble thinking clearly
  • Get cranky, anxious, irritable, or depressed
  • Have less energy or interest in doing things
  • Make mistakes or get into accidents more often than normal
  • Worry about their lack of sleep

These symptoms can be so bad that they affect a person's relationships or work life. They can happen even in people who seem to be sleeping enough hours.

Are there tests I should have?

Probably not. Most people with insomnia need no tests. Your doctor or nurse will probably be able to tell what is wrong just by talking to you. They might also ask you to keep a daily log for 1 to 2 weeks, where you keep track of how you sleep each night.

In some cases, people do need special sleep tests, such as "polysomnography" or "actigraphy."

  • Polysomnography – Polysomnography is a test that usually lasts all night. It can be done in a sleep lab or in your home. During the test, monitors are attached to your body to record movement, brain activity, breathing, and other body functions.
  • Actigraphy – Actigraphy records activity and movement with a monitor or motion detector that is usually worn on the wrist. The test is done at home, over several days and nights. It will record how much you actually sleep and when.

Should I see a doctor or nurse?

Yes. If you have insomnia, and it is troubling you, see your doctor or nurse. They might have suggestions for how to treat the problem