What Is Insomnia?
Insomnia is a sleep disorder in which a person experiences poor sleep or has trouble sleeping. Insomnia can involve:
- Difficulty falling asleep
Difficulty staying asleep (that is, waking up many times during the night), without necessarily having had any difficulty falling asleep
Waking up too early in the morning
Not feeling refreshed after a night's sleep.
In any of these cases the person feels tired the next day, or feels as if he or she did not have enough sleep.
Poor sleep for any length of time can lead to mood disturbances, lack of motivation, decreased attention span, trouble with concentration, low levels of energy, and increased fatigue.
About one-third of the average person's life is spent sleeping. Healthy sleep is vital to the human body and important for the optimal functioning of the brain and other organs.
Is Insomnia Serious?
Insomnia can have physical and psychological effects. The consequences of insomnia include:
Impaired mental functioning. Insomnia can affect concentration and memory, and can affect one's ability to perform daily tasks.
Accidents. Insomnia endangers public safety by contributing to traffic and industrial accidents. Various studies have shown that fatigue plays a major role in automobile and machinery accidents. As many as 100,000 automobile accidents, accounting for 1,500 deaths, are caused by sleepiness.
Stress and depression. Insomnia increases the activity of the hormones and pathways in the brain that cause stress, and changes in sleeping patterns have been shown to have significant affects on mood. Ongoing insomnia may be a sign of anxiety and depression.
Heart disease. One study reported that people with chronic insomnia had signs of heart and nervous system activity that might put them at risk for heart disease.
Headaches. Headaches that occur during the night or early in the morning may be related to a sleep disorder.
Economic effects. Insomnia costs the U.S. an estimated $100 billion each year in medical costs and decreased productivity.
If your insomnia lasts longer than a few weeks and is affecting your mood, relationships, and ability to function well, it is a good idea to see a doctor, therapist, or sleep specialist.