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Symptoms of Insomnia

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: June 2020

Insomnia is defined as trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. It is the most common sleep disorder in the U.S. and one of the most common complaints that people make to their doctor.1

Short-term, or acute, insomnia usually lasts for a few days or weeks. Chronic insomnia occurs at least 3 times a week for 3 months or longer. If you are having trouble with sleep, you should begin a sleep diary to track your sleep and any symptoms you may have.1

People with insomnia report these types of sleep issues:1

  • Taking more than 30 minutes to fall asleep each night
  • Waking up several times in the night
  • Having trouble falling back asleep after waking
  • Waking too early and not being able to fall back asleep

Mental and behavioral signs of insomnia

A lack of good sleep impacts daily life in many ways. Some of the quality-of-life symptoms of insomnia include:1

  • Fatigue or low energy during the day
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering
  • Mood changes such as being irritable, aggressive, impulsive, or hyperactive
  • Performance problems at work or school
  • More mistakes or accidents
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Worry and anxiety about lack of sleep

Physical signs of insomnia

Most people know that lack of sleep can cause daytime sleepiness or grumpiness. But, many people do not know that long-term, untreated insomnia can cause physical symptoms too. Some common physical signs of insomnia include:1

How is insomnia diagnosed?

A sleep diary will help your doctor diagnose your sleep problem. You should record details of your sleep each day for at least 1 to 2 weeks. It will be helpful to your doctor to know:1

  • How long it takes you to fall asleep
  • How long you stay asleep
  • When you wake up
  • Why you wake up (if you know why)
  • How often you wake up in the night
  • Whether you are able to go back to sleep if you wake up in the middle of the night
  • How many naps you take and for how long
  • Whether you also snore or kick at night
  • Your symptoms such as daytime sleepiness, fatigue, moods

All of these details will help your doctor diagnose the type of insomnia you have, or whether you may have a different sleep disorder.

Be prepared to talk about when your sleep problems began, how long it has lasted, and what the room is like where you sleep. Light, noise, room temperature, and bedding can contribute to sleep problems.

Your doctor will also want to know if you have tried sleep aids, meditation, etc. and if anything makes it worse. The more information you can give, the more likely your doctor will be able to help you find a solution.

Some quick self-tests can help you talk with your doctor about your insomnia, including:1,2

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