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This information was reviewed and approved by Sheila Tsai, MD (2/28/2017).

Although sleep is an essential part of life, for many people restful sleep is elusive. Insomnia, the most common sleep disorder, includes having difficulty falling asleep, waking often during the night, waking up too early or just feeling that your sleep isn't refreshing.

Almost everyone has insomnia sometimes. But it can be a chronic problem that has a major impact on how you function during the day. It can make you irritable, impair your judgment and increase your risk of accidents by making you less alert during the day. It also can worsen existing medical problems and lead to new ones.

Insomnia should not be ignored or dismissed as merely a nuisance. Those who seek treatment can get relief. First, there is a lot you can do at home to improve your chances of getting a good night's sleep. Also, a variety of therapies can help, as can new drugs that make it easier for insomnia sufferers to fall asleep and stay asleep. Common symptoms include difficulty sleeping or fatigue during the day, irritability, morning headaches and poor attention.


Severity of Insomnia

There are varying degrees of severity for insomnia.

  • Mild Insomnia: Poor sleep has little effect on social function or work.

  • Moderate Insomnia: Poor sleep affects social and work function.

  • Severe Insomnia: Poor sleep has a major impact on how a person functions during the day.

  • Acute Insomnia: Poor sleep lasts only a few days.

  • Chronic Insomnia: Poor sleep for at least 3 months or more. It may start in early childhood and be lifelong.

Most people have had difficulty sleeping at some point. A national survey indicated that 35 percent* of adults reported having insomnia over the previous year. Insomnia symptoms can include difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, frequent awakenings during sleep or early morning awakening. This can cause many problems during the waking hours that can affect daily function. Insomnia can happen for short periods of time (days to weeks) or can be chronic (months or longer).

To learn more about symptoms, causes, dangers and treatment view the patient information from the American Thoracic Society’s Patient Information series on Insomnia.


* Information and statistics have been provided by the American Thoracic Society.


National Jewish Health experts provided information on this topic for use on the U.S. News & World Report website.


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