What Is Insomnia? (Signs and Symptoms)




Most of us are familiar with classic insomnia: a temporary period of time during which, for whatever reason, we just can’t fall asleep or stay asleep. In fact, insomnia is very common. According to the Centers for Disease Control, up to 70 million Americans are dealing with it to some degree, with a staggering one out of three adults getting less than the necessary minimum amount of nightly sleep.

What many people don’t realize is that insomnia is not just a little trouble sleeping restfully now and again—it’s a sleep disorder and it can take a few different forms. Not everyone experiences it in precisely the same way. 

Before looking into insomnia signs and symptoms, let’s briefly discuss what insomnia means.


Insomnia Definition

What does the word “insomnia” mean, literally? It comes from the Latin somnus, meaning sleep. In Latin, adding the prefix in to the front of a word negates its meaning, implying the opposite; thus the word insomnus—which means “no sleep,” or “sleepless.” The term we know today, insomnia, finally came into use in the 1700s to describe sleeplessness as a state.

Even before it had an official word to describe it, however, insomnia had long been a recognized condition affecting would-be sleepers. One historian in New Zealand, Eluned Summers-Bremner, even traced references to chronic insomnia back as far as the epic “Gilgamesh,” recorded in Iraq circa 2700 B.C. (The story revolves around a character’s habitual problem sleeping after the death of a friend.) 

Today, the American Sleep Association defines insomnia as “trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.” Various types of sleeplessness fall under this umbrella definition. If you have insomnia, you could have trouble sleeping for only a few days—or you could have chronic, ongoing sleep difficulties that last months or even years. Your insomnia might be caused by an underlying medical condition, or it could be a completely separate sleep disorder, originating in your nervous system. 

The one thing all insomnias share for sure is misery. Very few people declare, “I have insomnia” in an excited or joyful manner. Lack of sleep usually presents to doctors as a complaint for good reason; most people suffer after a night of unwanted wakefulness or tossing and turning. Not getting enough sleep can have a harmful effect on one’s health, mood, mental state, concentration, and quality of work and life.

In other words: insomnia stinks. And somehow, for many of us, it’s psychological as well as physiological; the more frustrating and anxiety-provoking this lack of sleep becomes, the more likely it is to happen again.


What Causes Insomnia?

We’ll get into the details of insomnia causes in the next post. Not everyone has the same reasons for experiencing temporary or chronic sleeplessness, and often a sleep study or visit with a physician is required to get to the bottom of your particular cause.

Essentially, though, insomnia can be broken down into two main categories:



Do I Have Insomnia? A Checklist

How do you know if you have insomnia? Here’s a list of possible signs and symptoms:


Insomnia is a tricky issue. Other health problems can create it, but it can also be the root cause of so many concerns affecting the mind and body.

If you suspect that you’re not getting enough sleep at night—or good enough quality sleep—your best course of action is to see a doctor and open up a dialogue about the reasons why. Suffering with a lack of sleep is not only unnecessary, it’s actively harmful to your health and longevity.

If you feel you or a loved one is suffering from insomnia feel free to call Sound Sleep Health today at (425) 279-7151.


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