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Insomnia is the most common sleep complaint. It is a serious disorder that affects approximately 1 in 5 people. It occurs when you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep even though you had the opportunity to get a full night of sleep. The causes, symptoms and severity of insomnia vary from person to person.

The effects of insomnia can impact nearly every aspect of your life. Sleep loss impairs decision-making and can damage relationships. In most cases, people with insomnia report a worse overall quality of life.

Insomnia may include:

  • Difficulty falling asleep

  • Difficulty staying asleep throughout the night

  • Waking up too early in the morning

  • Getting restless sleep.



Concentration/ Memory/Attention impairment

Social dysfunction/School performance

Mood disturbance/Irritability

Daytime sleepiness

Reduced motivation/energy

Errors/Accidents at work or while driving

Absenteeism or presenteeism

Headaches/GI symptoms

Most poor sleepers have a very unpredictable sleep pattern. They live with the uncertainty of what the night will hold for them, compared with good sleepers, who can rely on their sleep being stable and satisfying.


Individuals who have very irregular sleep-wake schedules are at risk for developing insomnia because irregular sleep-wake schedules weaken the signals from the circadian clock regulating sleep and wakefulness. Shift workers or people who travel frequently between time zones are particularly at risk.


Individuals who have recently retired or the unemployed may suffer as their sleep schedule becomes irregular due to the lack of routine. Put very simply, the body clock gets confused.


People who describe themselves as “worriers” are at risk for insomnia. People may be in the habit of overanalysing things and ruminating while in bed. Most people suffering from insomnia describe the ‘busy mind’. They feel exhausted but they can’t stop their mind from thinking. After a period of time of not sleeping the worry increases and a vicious cycle develops. Individuals start to worry about not being able to sleep or not being able to cope the next day. They may worry about the long term effects of not sleeping on their health. People suffering from insomnia think a lot about sleep.


People with a genetic predisposition are also more likely to develop insomnia. People who have a family member suffering from insomnia are at greater risk. Women are twice as likely to experience insomnia as men. Older adults are more likely to experience insomnia.


Certain medical conditions can be a trigger for insomnia. Physical pain or discomfort can disrupt the normal sleep pattern and these individuals are more at risk of developing insomnia.


People with psychiatric or mental health disorders may find that their sleep is badly affected and they are at particular risk of suffering from insomnia. Other sleep disorders may co-exist for example Restless leg syndrome (RLS) or obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSA).


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