Last update: July 13, 2024

9 minute read

What is Insomnia?

Explore the world of insomnia, its causes, its health effects, and effective ways to combat it for a better night's sleep. No more counting sheep!

Stephanie Wright

By Stephanie Wright, RN, BSN

Edited by Dr. Jacquie Leone, NMD, HN

Learn more about our editorial standards

Do you ever experience those nights when you feel exhausted but can’t seem to fall asleep, no matter what you do? If so, insomnia might be the culprit. It's not just about the frustration of counting sheep or staring at the ceiling; it can greatly affect your energy, mood, health, and overall quality of life. This common sleep disorder can throw more than just your sleep schedule out of whack, and it's essential to shed some light on it.

Key takeaways

  • Insomnia is characterized by difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Insomnia can have serious implications for physical, mental, and emotional health, extending beyond just feeling tired
  • There are multiple treatment options available for insomnia, from medications to therapy and natural remedies

    What is insomnia?

    Insomnia is a sleep disorder that affects many people. It can make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep, or cause you to wake up too early and not be able to fall back asleep. Even if you sleep through the night, you may still feel tired when you wake up.

    Why should you care about insomnia?

    First things first, let's get real about insomnia. It's not just a buzzword on your favorite wellness podcast or an excuse to sip on that trendy chamomile tea before bedtime.

    Insomnia is an actual sleep disorder, and it's messing with more people than you think. In this 24/7 culture where "I'll sleep when I'm dead" becomes a terrifying mantra, it's easy to dismiss a few sleepless nights as no big deal.

    But insufficient sleep can put a real damper on your mood, not to mention your health and daily performance. To add some context, the sweet spot for adults is at least seven hours of sleep per night.

    That's your ticket to staying bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. As you age, the recommended hours may change, with sleep quality being just as important as quantity.

    But for some, getting this amount of sleep can be as elusive as catching that Golden Snitch in a Quidditch match. We're talking about chronic insomnia, and it's not something to shrug off.

    What are the signs of insomnia?

    Let's explore the common symptoms of insomnia. Recognizing these can be the first step in your journey toward better sleep.

    Have you ever tossed and turned in bed, eyeing the alarm clock as the minutes turn into hours? Or maybe you wake up in the middle of the night and find it tough to drift back to dreamland. These are classic symptoms of chronic insomnia.

    Poor sleep can make tackling your day challenging. That's when you might experience fatigue, feel less refreshed post-sleep, or find it difficult to focus.

    Hello, did anyone order a double shot of brain fog with a side of irritability? Because that's what you might be dealing with. Increased errors, accidents, or continuous worry about sleep could also be indicators.

    Understanding these symptoms is crucial to getting your sleep game back on track. So, if your sleeplessness starts to interfere with your daytime activities, it's time to hit the brakes and get some help.

    VitaRx Tip

    The sleep fairy isn't just a cute bedtime story, she's a professional who can help you overcome these sleep hurdles. So, don't hesitate to reach out and get the rest you need and deserve.

    What's keeping you awake at night?

    Now that you've got the symptoms down, let's dive into the causes of insomnia.

    The usual suspects

    The first usual suspects that come to mind are stress, life events, or certain habits that disrupt sleep. Let's be real, life can sometimes feel like a never-ending episode of Grey's Anatomy, full of drama and stress.

    And these little speed bumps can turn your sleep schedule topsy-turvy. Work issues, health concerns, or even personal crises can keep your mind buzzing when you'd rather be counting sheep.

    Changes in your sleep environment can also mess with your inner body clock. You know, like traveling across time zones or pulling all-nighters to meet deadlines. It's like your body's internal clock starts speaking a different language.

    Lifestyle choices, health, and genetics

    Your lifestyle choices play a big role too. Late-night snacking or spending too much time on screens before bed can interfere with your sleep cycle. You've heard it before, but let's say it again, moderation is key!

    Certain medical conditions can disrupt your sleep patterns leading to insomnia. Conditions like pregnancy, intellectual disabilities, mental health, and neurological conditions, among many others.

    Also, your medications may keep you up at night. It’s a great idea to speak with your doctor about your insomnia so they can help better manage your care with the right medicines.

    Insomnia runs in the family. Your genes may also affect your sleep making you a light sleeper.

    Does age or sex play a role in insomnia?

    Alright, it's time to tackle the age and sex at birth question. Does it really matter? The short answer is yes.

    Aging and insomnia

    As you age, your sleep patterns change, and insomnia can become a more frequent guest. It's like turning into Cinderella, but instead of a carriage turning into a pumpkin, you may get tired earlier and wake up earlier. But remember, the amount of sleep you need doesn't decrease with age.

    Chronic insomnia is characterized as experiencing symptoms at least three times a week for at least three months with daytime consequences. Research shows that up to 50% of older adults report symptoms of insomnia, which is often detrimental to their health.

    Lifestyle changes and health conditions more commonly seen with age can also interfere with sleep. A lack of exercise, increased need for nighttime urination, and increased use of medications can all play a role in disrupting your sleep.

    Insomnia and sex

    For women, hormonal shifts during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause can all cause sleep disruption. Typically, progesterone promotes sleep, but levels drop at different reproductive stages. That’s why you may experience some sleep disruption late in your menstrual cycle or with menopause.

    So, what's the takeaway here? Don't ignore your sleep troubles, and never hesitate to get help if you're having trouble catching those Z's.

    Dos and don'ts for better sleep


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      Keep a regular sleep schedule

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      Engage in regular physical activity

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      Create a comfortable sleep environment

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      Speak with your doctor if you’re experiencing symptoms of chronic insomnia.


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      Avoid late-night heavy meals

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      Limit screen time before bed

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      Don't take naps if you struggle with nighttime sleep

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      Avoid caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime

    Is insomnia just an adult thing?

    Insomnia isn’t a one-size-fits-all kinda deal; it can show up in kids and teens too. Just like how adults have sleepless nights thinking about their next big presentation, youngsters too can have a tough time hitting the snooze button.

    In the case of some kids and teens, they might have trouble getting to sleep or resist a regular bedtime because their internal clocks are more delayed. Picture this: They're like the Night Owls of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, wanting to stay up late and sleep in later.

    Speaking of risks, nearly everyone has an occasional sleepless night, but your risk of insomnia is greater if you're a woman, over age 60, have a mental health disorder or physical health condition, are under a lot of stress, or don't have a regular schedule. Major or long-lasting stress can lead to chronic insomnia.

    The Domino Effect

    So, what happens when insomnia takes the wheel? Well, it can affect you both mentally and physically.

    Think of it as a domino effect - one poor night of sleep can lead to lower performance on the job or at school, slowed reaction time while driving, and a higher risk of accidents. It's a ripple effect that can end up affecting your overall quality of life.

    VitaRx Tip

    Remember, whatever your age, gender, or lifestyle, insomnia is a tough cookie that we can all bite into. But with the right strategies, professional help, and attitude, we can nibble away at it bit by bit.

    A glimpse into sleep disorder statistics

    Dive into some intriguing data highlighting the prevalence and impact of sleep disorders like insomnia across many age groups and sexes. The list below gathers information from multiple studies and surveys, presenting a comprehensive view of this pervasive issue.

    • Teen males: 18%
    • Teen females: 23%
    • Adult males: 25%
    • Adult females: 35%
    • Senior males: 32%
    • Senior females: 40%

    Caption: Sleep Disorder Statistics by Age and Gender (Source: National Sleep Foundation)

    Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

    Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about insomnia.

    Final thoughts

    And there you have it, everything you need to know about insomnia in a "night" shell. Insomnia isn't just about counting sheep but understanding what's going on in your mind and body.

    Remember, the night is always darkest just before dawn, but with the right tools and strategies, you can ensure your dawn isn't too far away. Until next time, sleep well and dream big.

    Sources and references


    Stephanie Wright avatar

    Stephanie brings over 13 years of diverse nursing experience to the table, having honed her expertise in critical care, mental health, and utilization management. Her journey as a registered nurse across these various healthcare sectors underscores her adaptability and deep commitment to patient care.

    Fact checker

     Dr. Jacquie Leone avatar

    Dr. Leone holds a BA in Psychology, a Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine, and board certification in holistic nutrition. In addition to practicing medicine, Dr. Leone has developed and currently teaches science and nutrition courses for a nationally accredited institution. She specializes in chronic illness, gastrointestinal dysregulation, inflammatory conditions, and mental health. Her unique approach combines the wisdom of Eastern medicine with the technology and science of Western medicine, offering an integrative approach heavily focused on functional medicine.

    At VitaRx, we're not just passionate about our work — we take immense pride in it. Our dedicated team of writers diligently follows strict editorial standards, ensuring that every piece of content we publish is accurate, current, and highly valuable. We don't just strive for quality; we aim for excellence.

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