What is Insomnia?

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What is Insomnia?

What is Insomnia? Insomnia is a common condition that involves the failure to fall asleep or stay asleep [1]. The duration of insomnia can vary from transient insomnia that last a few days to a more chronic insomnia that can last longer than 3 weeks. The more chronic form of insomnia can be the result of psychiatric, psychological or substance use disorders [2]. The primary form of insomnia can be the consequence of psychological factors, however secondary insomnia is attributed to medical, psychiatric, or even environmental factors [3].

Some of the cause’s of sleep-onset insomnia includes anxiety or tension, environmental changes, emotional arousal, fear of insomnia, phobia of sleep, disruptive environment, pain or discomfort, caffeine or alcohol. Sleep maintenance insomnia can be the result of depression, environmental changes, sleep apnea, nocturnal myoclonus, hypoglycaemia, parasomnia’s, pain or discomfort, drugs and alcohol [4].

With age circadian rhythms change which can alter sleep patterns and the elderly may have trouble with both sleep-onset or sleep maintenance insomnia. Stress is also a significant contributing factor to the incidence of insomnia.  It is the presence of cortisol during stress that has a disruptive effect on circadian rhythms. Not only will psychological stress cause an increase in cortisol, but so too will physical stress such calorie restriction, surgery, excessive exercise and also sleep deprivation itself can all stimulate the adrenal glands to release cortisol [5].


  1. McCance, K., et al., eds. Pathophysiology: The Biological Basis for Disease in Adults and Children. 6th ed. 2010, Mosby Elsevier. 1753.
  2. Hulisz, D. and C. Duff, Assisting Seniors with Insomnia: A Comprehensive Approach. U.S Pharmacist, 2009.
  3. Yuan, C., E. Bieber, and B. Bauer, eds. Textbook of complementary & alternative medicine. 2nd ed. 2006, Informa healthcare
  4. UK.
  5. Pizzorno, J. and M. Murray, eds. Textbook of Natural medicine. 3rd ed. Vol. 2nd. 2006, Churchill Livingstone Elsevier: USA.
  6. Kohlstadt, I., ed. Food and nutrients in disease management. 2009, CRC Press: Florida.

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