When does a normal, passing sleep problem become insomnia?
Many people know what it feels like to lie awake staring at the ceiling, wishing for sleep. This can happen when you travel and get jet lag, or when you're anxious and overwhelmed by life. But when does it become insomnia?
People with insomnia have one or more of the following symptoms at least 3 nights per week for 3 months or longer:
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Difficulty staying asleep (waking up during the night and having trouble returning to sleep)
- Waking up too early in the morning and being unable to fall back to sleep
Insomnia may also include:
- Poor quality sleep (also called "non-restorative sleep")
- Tiredness or low energy
- Difficulty concentrating
- Mood changes, such as irritability
- Difficulty at work or school
- Difficulty in personal relationships
Get to the bottom of your insomnia
If you have insomnia, it may be related to unhealthy sleep habits or it could be comorbid, meaning it occurs with another medical or psychiatric condition that may need to be addressed.
Researchers have begun to think about insomnia as a problem of your brain being unable to stop being awake. Your brain has a sleep cycle and a wake cycle. Insomnia can be a problem with either part of this cycle (too little sleep drive or too much wake drive).
Regardless of its cause, talking to your doctor may be a good idea if your sleep difficulties have become a regular occurrence.