What Is Insomnia? 

The average person needs to get between 6 and 9 hours of sleep per night in order to feel energetic and refreshed. Insomnia is a common issue that most people experience. Then what is insomnia? Some of those who suffer from insomnia will find it hard to fall asleep while others simply can’t stay asleep. Many cases of mild insomnia can be treated through creating a healthy lifestyle, but severe insomnia frequently requires medical care, including doctor's visits and treatment. Those with chronic insomnia should be ready for a long-term battle with the condition.

What Is Insomnia?

Insomnia is a disorder that is persistent and makes it challenging to either fall asleep or stay asleep, or do both, even when someone has the chance to get adequate sleep. People with insomnia usually wake up without feeling refreshed, and this limits their ability to function normally throughout the day.

Classification of Insomnia

Learning "what is insomnia" should know how many types of insomnia there are. Sometimes insomnia is classified based on cause:

  • Primary insomnia. In this case, someone has sleep problems, which are unrelated to other health conditions and problems.
  • Secondary insomnia. In this case, the person has sleep problems due to another issue. It may be due to a substance they use (like alcohol), medication they take, pain, or a health condition (like heartburn, cancer, arthritis, depression, or asthma).

You can also classify insomnia based on its duration.

  • Short-term insomniaThis lasts anywhere between one night and several weeks.
  • Chronic insomniaThis lasts for at least a month, occurring a minimum of three nights each week.

Symptoms and Causes of Insomnia

Without knowing the symptoms and causes of insomnia, you can never really know "what is insomnia".

The causes of insomnia can vary from person to person, but there are some common factors. They may include ongoing concerns about sleep, gastrointestinal distress, tension headaches, increased accidents or errors, difficulty focusing (or remembering), anxiety, depression, irritability, daytime sleepiness, not feeling rested despite a night’s sleep, waking up too early or in the middle of the night, and problems falling asleep in the first place. Those with insomnia frequently take at least 30 minutes to fall asleep and will get six or less hours of sleep at least three nights each week for over a month.

1. Impacts of Insomnia

Insomnia can have a range of impacts on a person’s life, mostly due to the lack of rest and its impacts on every day functioning. It can decrease your cognitive processing, lead tofrequent and serious accidents, health problems (including heart disease, irregular heartbeat, stroke, diabetes, and high blood pressure), a lowered sex drive, depression, aging of the skin, increased obesity, and even an increase in the risk of dying (particularly due to the cardiovascular effects).

2. Causes of Insomnia

  • Medical conditions. Certain medical conditions can lead to insomnia and sometimes it is the condition itself that is to blame, while other times it is the discomfort associated with the condition that causes the insomnia. Some medical conditions that can affect sleep include low back pain, chronic pain, neurological conditions, asthma, arthritis, endocrine problems, gastrointestinal problems, and nasal or sinus allergies.
  • Anxiety. It is common for adults to have insomnia due to anxiety including tension, excessive worrying, feeling overwhelmed with too many responsibilities, feeling overstimulated, or getting caught in thoughts concerning the past.
  • Lifestyle. Unhealthy lifestyle habits may also contribute to insomnia. Working at home late at night may make it harder to fall asleep and so can taking even short naps. Sometimes if you sleep in, your internal clock gets confused, making it harder to fall asleep. The internal clock can also be affected by working irregular hours.
  • Certain foods and beverage. Certain foods can also lead to insomnia. While alcohol helps you fall asleep at first, it can disrupt you later. Caffeine and nicotine are both stimulants that keep you awake. Having a heavy meal before bed can also cause discomfort, making it harder to relax at night.
  • Aging. As you age, you experience many changes, including changes in activity levels and health as well as taking additional medications. Any of these factors can affect your sleep patterns and lead to insomnia.

How to Deal with Insomnia

Almost everyone will experience insomnia. Lifestyle changes, therapies and medication can help relieve insomnia. However, if your insomnia is the symptom or side effect of another problem, it's important to seek a doctor and treat the underlying cause.

1. Home Remedies for Insomnia

There are a lot of home remedies that can help to ease your insomnia. The followings is the options we recommend.

  • Change sleeping habits

Keeping a sleep diary will help you see what hidden things are affecting your sleep patterns. Include what you eat and your sleep routine.

You should also try to change your sleeping habits to help you sleep better. Keep a regular schedule for sleeping and avoid taking naps. Limit your intake of nicotine, alcohol, and caffeine and avoid doing something stimulating (including reading from a lit device) before bed.

Try turning off the lights for a while before you go to sleep and keep your room cool.

  • Offset anxiety during sleep

If you find yourself getting anxious frequently when sleep, then train your brain to associate your bedroom with sleeping and sex. Don’t use your computer or phone, work, or watch TV in the bedroom. Your body will start understanding the room’s purpose and act accordingly.

  • Apply relaxation techniques

Deep abdominal breathing will involve your rib cage, lower back, and belly and doing this with your eyes closed can help relax yourself.  Relax your muscles by getting comfortable and tense, and then relax each of your muscles starting with your feet and working your way up to your head.

2. Medical Treatments for Insomnia

Your doctor may recommend short-term sleeping pills if the insomnia interferes with daily functioning.



Side effects


It helps you fall asleep in 15 or 30 minutes and stay asleep.

You should only use it if you have seven or eight hours to sleep.


It targets the sleep-wake cycle.

This drug isn’t linked to dependence or abuse.


This stays active for a short time, so you can try falling asleep by yourself or take it in the middle of the night without risk.

It doesn’t last long, making it less than ideal for those who wake up at night.

OTC sleeping pills

Most of these are antihistamines.

They can cause drowsiness and may interact with other antihistamines.


Many of the medications have a risk of rebound insomnia, tolerance, and dependency.

When to See a doctor

If you have tried the treatments mentioned above without results, then consider talking to your doctor. You should also get help if:

▪ Self-help strategies don’t work.

▪ The insomnia interferes with school, work, or home life.

▪ You have shortness of breath, chest pain, or other “scary” symptoms.

▪ The insomnia happens almost nightly and is worsening.

When you visit your doctor, take with a sleep diary.

Watch the following video to learn more about treating insomnia: