Eye-opening) Insomnia Facts: Including Causes, Symptoms, Treatments

Geoffrey Lions
Written by
Last update:

The Definition of Insomnia

Insomnia is a problem of not being able to get enough quality sleep. This can be a due to a lot of reasons which will be discussed in the following paragraphs.

If you’re looking to get to sleep faster and stay asleep, you should start listening to the advice from insomnia sufferers. A lot has been researched about insomnia, and the following are some of the things that insomnia sufferers have found work for them.

Eat dark chocolate that has enough amount of caffeine in it can give you the energy needed to try to stay awake at night. The research has shown that eating dark chocolate with enough caffeine in it can keep you awake for longer periods.

Cold showers at night can help you live a better life. If you’re sleeping less than six hours, cold shower at night can help you feel more awake at night. But if you’re already used to sleeping good then try hot thermal water, it will make you sleep like a baby

Invest in some weighted blankets, some people may suggest this but a lot of insomnia suffers have found that the weighted blankets have helped them sleep better. Some sleep shops have them for sale, so that may be your best shot.

Insomnia: the condition of being unable to sleep, over a period of time.

Insomnia is a diagnosis of exclusion. It means that it is the main problem from a clinical point of view, but it can’t be explained by anything else. It occurs in 25-30% of the population, and is one of the biggest clinical problems in primary care.

In primary care it is a common problem, but only a tiny proportion go to see a psychiatrist about it. Many patients are not willing to go to see a psychiatrist, whereas much more go to see their GP.

Estimating the population of insomnia patients is very complicated, because many people have what we consider to be mild insomnia. It might prevent them from getting a good night’s sleep, but not from getting up in the morning.

This is why insomnia patients are often unknown to their doctors. They don’t know that they’re there, because they’re not recognised clinically.

Psychiatry is the study of the mind, brain and behaviour. It does not include other common medical problems, such as back ache, cough, and upper respiratory tract infections.

The closest you’ll get to sleep disorders in the psychiatric manual is a sleep disorder that is also a psychiatric problem, such as primary insomnia.

General Insomnia Facts

The way the brain associates sleep with the daytime or with a specific time of day is a circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythms work in tandem with other rhythms, like the sleep-wake cycle. This rhythm is an innate process that regulates the day to day activities of living.

Brain changes in the adenosine system regulate the circadian rhythm between sleep and wakefulness. Adenosine accumulates in the brain with wakefulness. Adenosine works to help clear out unnecessary or unimportant signals that the brain receives, and therefore is an important sleep-wake stimulant.

With normal function, when blood flow in the brain reaches an appropriate level, adenosine is cleared to the point that an individual is tired enough to fall asleep. An absence of adenosine does not cause sleepiness, although a lack of adenosine receptors in the brain may lead to excessive daytime sleepiness.

Sufficient sleep is essential for optimal alertness, learning, memory, performance, and mood during waking hours. Many factors can negatively impact sleep. Insomniacs have a disorder in which they have trouble sleeping or when they do sleep, they don’t get the rest and rejuvenation they need to restore motivation and energy to accomplish daily goals.

30% of Americans will occasionally suffer from symptoms of insomnia.

As many as 95% of Americans report an episode of insomnia at some point in their lives.

Insomnia is so prevalent that many people experience it at some point in their lives. (Including yours truly.) In fact, as many as 95% of American adults report having an episode of insomnia in the last year alone.

In addition to affecting a large fraction of the population, insomnia can be serious. Research shows that insomnia is a common complaint among individuals with serious physical and psychological disorders, as it is associated with a host of negative physical and psychological outcomes. This article delves into the causes, symptoms, and treatments for this common and significant sleep disorder.

10% of Americans suffer from chronic insomnia.

As you’ll learn in this post, insomnia can affect you in many ways. While medication is sometimes used to treat the symptoms of insomnia, there are also simpler, lifestyle changes, that if practiced, can help you fall asleep and stay asleep.

Pin it for later!

Insomnia facts are eye-opening and can lead to a better night’s sleep and improved health. When sleep is healthy, everything else in life works better.

Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder, much more common than night terrors or sleep walking.

1 in 3 people in the U.S. have insomnia at one point in their lives, and 10% of the U.S. population has chronic insomnia.

Research has shown that insomnia sufferers often develop habits and behaviors that make insomnia worse. If you make the healthy choice now to change your habits, you are likely to have a better night sleep, and the positive physiological changes that happen when you sleep well will continue to have a lasting positive impact..

Most of the behaviors that you practice are designed to relax you and send you to bed at a reasonably early time. However, there are a few habits that can ruin your chances of getting a good night’s sleep.

In the USA, an estimated $63 billion is lost in work performance due to insomnia each year.

Insomnia is one of the major contributing factors to deaths in car accidents.

People who don't sleep enough are at a much higher risk of causing a wreck. One study shows that drivers who slept five hours or less were twice as likely to be in a crash. Those who slept more than eight hours were 20 percent more likely to crash.

Insomnia can have a wide range of effects on our daily lives. A 2014 study found that, people who had sleep problems lost an average of almost five kilograms of weight in 13 years. People with insomnia tended to gain weight in the abdominal area, creating a higher risk of heart disease.

In 2004, there was a study that has been looking at the overall mortality of insomnia. The study found out that people who have insomnia have a higher risk of death from cancer, cardiovascular disease and a higher risk of dying from other causes.

History of Insomnia

It is thought that insomnia is related to medical diseases, psychological causes or both. In fact, until recently, there was no evidence of a direct link between biology and insomnia. Recent studies however have shown the existence of differences in the structure of the brain between insomniacs and individuals who sleep well. The cortex, the thalamus and the hypothalamus are involved.

The term insomnia comes from the Latin words “in sopor” which means “without sleep”. In ancient Greece, insomniacs were given sleeping potions and were called the people without dreams, those dwelling in empty darkness.

In 1664, Horace gives us the definition we still use today: “insomniac is a man who cannot fall asleep.”

The word insomnia is used to describe the inability to sleep. In Latin, it means “no sleep”. It is also called hypersomnia which would be the opposite, sleep too much, and idiopathic insomnia in which the cause is unknown.

The term “insomnia” first appeared in the dictionary in 1623 and was given the meaning “want of sleep”.

Insomnia didn’t become recognized as a condition in its own right until 1871. Since then, the classification of insomnia has changed and been refined a number of times. Today, most health professionals consider insomnia a symptom of a disease or a symptom of a disorder.

An individual who suffers from insomnia is called an insomniac.

Other facts on TheGoodBody.com:

Insomnia is a common condition that affects sleep quality. Without quality sleep, many body systems aren’t able to do what they’re supposed to do. This is why it’s so important to recognize insomnia as a sign that something else is going on with your health. Insomnia is a common sign that something isn’t right.

Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

There are many common causes of insomnia. Be sure to see your doctor if you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms:

  • Breathing difficulty
  • Chest pain
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Fever
  • Indigestion
  • Loose bowel movements
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Swollen toes or fingers
  • Unusual or foul breath odor

Sleep is essential for your health and well-being. So, if you have insomnia, you’re more likely to experience a variety of problems.

While you might be frustrated about not sleeping well, sleep problems can actually be a response to a serious medical issue. Your doctor can assist with diagnosing and treating the problem.


What Causes Can Insomnia?

Insomnia is most commonly associated with stress. This is simply because the stress hormone adrenaline is activated by stress and adrenaline can cause insomnia. Insomnia can also be caused by the use of caffeine and/or alcohol before bed.

If your sleep schedule is disrupted and your body is not getting the sleep that it needs, you are likely going to have trouble falling asleep. You may not only have trouble falling asleep at night, but may also suffer from sleep deprivation and not feel rested when you finally wake up. If you used to fall asleep easily and are having trouble falling asleep, you may want to try to change your schedule. Your sleep schedule should make you feel tired when it is about to be time to go to bed. If this is not happening, you may want to change your sleep schedule to a time where you feel tired before going to bed.

In many cases, you’ll find that insomnia is caused by another condition or illness. Some of the more common conditions include thyroid problems, chronic pain, depression, menopause, and heart disease. If you have an underlying condition that you are not addressing, you may become more prone to suffering from insomnia.

More than half of Americans lose sleep due to stress or anxiety.

Frequent binge drinking causes insomnia symptoms in older adults.

The new study found that older adults who consume eight or more alcoholic drinks per week have a higher chance of suffering from insomnia symptoms as well as sleep apnea, and restless leg syndrome symptoms. Compared to those who do not consume any alcohol, older adults who have eight or more alcoholic drinks per week have

  • 6 times the risk of experiencing insomnia symptoms
  • 4 times the risk of suffering from sleep apnea symptoms
  • Twice the risk of suffering from restless leg syndrome symptoms
  • Twice the risk of having trouble falling asleep
  • Twice the risk of waking up frequently during the night.

Heavy chronic smoking increases the likelihood of insomnia in older adults.

People who have been smoking for a while should quit for the sake of their health as well as their sleep.

Drinking coffee 6 hours before bedtime has disruptive effects on sleep.

Caffeine can disrupt your circadian rhythm.

People who work night shifts are at higher risk of suffering from insomnia.


Failure to begin sleep (sleep latency) or waking up frequently during the night is the primary symptom of insomnia. Difficulties maintaining sleep is also a symptom, particularly waking up frequently at night.

Difficulty with sleeping due to clinically significant psychological, physical, or psychiatric problems is diagnosed separately under the name of dyssomnias.

The sleep difficulties can be the primary problem, or they can be a reflection of an underlying condition such as depression, anxiety, brain injury, or another physical problem.

There are two types of insomnia: transient and chronic. Transient insomnia lasts less than a week and often responds to simple measures such as adequate sleep hygiene, exercise, and a quiet, dark bedroom. Chronic insomnia lasts more than a week and can be a symptom of an underlying medical or psychological disorder.

Those who suffer from insomnia are more likely to suffer from hallucinations.

Insomnia can lead to trances during times when it is necessary to be alert.

People with insomnia are 20 times more likely to develop a panic disorder.

6 of these people will develop a drug or alcohol addiction.

Individuals with acute insomnia exhibit more stress, poorer mood and worse sleep continuity.

Individuals with insomnia reported significantly more severe life stressors than did good sleepers.

A number of studies link insomnia with memory problems.

One referred to it as “the lion’s share of high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s, depression and heart disease” (Eagleman). According to Harvard Medical School researchers, “Insomnia affects one third of the general population and two-thirds of women with breast cancer, and getting the recommended 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night can make a big difference in the outcome of some health problems” (Eagleman).

Poor sleep increases the occurrence of migraines.

If you suffer from chronic migraines, you should sleep mostly on a bed without pillows, comforters, or blankets. You should also keep the room cool and dark as possible. A study of 438 migraine sufferers conducted by the American Headache Society says that sleeping on the floor can lower the pain considerably.

Get your facts straight!

Sleep disorders are not uncommon in our extreme 21st-century world. Just think about the naturally sleeping sheep of the field. Is it any wonder that cultural trends say rock stars and CEOs must sleep about five to seven hours per night? "No time to waste," we say, "have to be productive!" And we stay up late.

Of course, not everyone can function on less sleep. If you’re not a morning person, then it’s less likely you’ll go to bed early. Late-night workers don’t help either…they will be getting up to go to work the next day.

Combine that with children’s bedtime and your spouse who absolutely must watch one more show, which just happens to run a little long…you’re negative on sleep. So you’re not getting enough sleep and you’re now lying awake at night or have insomnia.


Natural, Homeopathic, and Existing.

Before you jump to prescriptions to cure insomnia, you should try the following natural, homeopathic treatments first.


In small doses, exercise can be a great time to unwind before bedtime. Many people use exercise as a sleep aid, and it’s no different for those who suffer from insomnia. In fact, exercise helps you sleep, but it can also help you wake up more refreshed.

Warm Bath

With warm baths, you can get in a warm environment before you go to bed, which will help you sleep at night. Just like chocolate, warm temperatures affect your sleep.

Allow Yourself to Unwind

It’s important that before you go to bed, you’re still awake enough to enjoy some quiet time so you can wind down a bit.

Track Your Sleep Habits

Track your sleep habits carefully. Joining a sleep tracker forum and posting about a sleep problem can make you realize those things that are preventing you from getting shut-eye. You can easily track your sleeping habits right from your phone.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been shown to be an effective treatment for insomnia.

Yoga has shown to help with the effects of insomnia.

A study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information in 2008 showed that yoga was found to be an effective treatment for insomnia. The study involved 101 persons with insomnia, who were part of a clinical trial and randomly assigned to one of the following: yoga group, yoga plus relaxation group, relaxation group, treatment as usual group, or wait-list control group.

The yoga group was instructed in gentle yoga, which included breathing exercises, training in awareness of sleep and the body, relaxation techniques, and gentle yoga exercises.

The yoga plus relaxation group was also taught techniques for managing stress, anxiety, and insomnia, as well as gentle yoga.

The relaxation group was instructed in progressive muscle relaxation and monitored for improvements.

People in the treatment as usual group continued with their regular treatment.

The wait-list control group received no treatment initially, but was then offered participation in the yoga classes.

The participants were monitored for insomnia and sleep quality. The researchers found that both the yoga groups reported significant improvements, compared to the other groups.

Roughly 4% of Americans aged over 20 use prescription sleeping pills each month.

People taking prescribed sleep medications are more likely to die early.

In 2013, researchers published a study comparing the link between persistent insomnia to mortality rates over a five year period. One in six people had some form of insomnia symptoms in the study sample. Results showed that people who reported insomnia symptoms also reported a higher incidence of early death.

The study authors concluded that the increased use of hypnotic drugs to treat insomnia symptoms in the US could be contributing to the early death of individuals. Researchers found that the study subjects who were prescribed sleep aids had a 23% higher early death rate.

Most of these deaths were reported to be a direct result of the sleep aid medications they were taking.

The numbers could be a result of the drugs being prescribed for too long of a period of time. Furthermore, many sleep aids also have a list of dangerous side effects which can include depression, hormonal disruptions, and mood swings.

Who is affected by insomnia?

Insomnia is a problem with sleeping. An estimated 60 million Americans suffer from some sort of sleeping disorder or another involving either too little sleep, the wrong kind of sleep or problems staying asleep. When these disorders start to interfere with daily activities, they are classed as insomnia.

Children and teenagers also suffer from insomnia, and it is not always connected with their mood or stressful situations. Around 40 percent of children and teenagers suffer from sleeping problems and 15 percent have chronic insomnia. When school performance, behavior and health are affected by insomnia, treatment should start.

Women are two times more likely to suffer from insomnia or sleep disorders during their lifetime than men. Post-menopausal women are also more likely to suffer from insomnia than their fellow menopausal (n/m) peers. Sleep disturbances are caused by a variety of non-medical issues and medications. About 80 percent of people who experience sleep problems have them at least once in their lifetime.

90% of depressed people also suffer from insomnia.

Women are up to twice as likely to suffer from insomnia than men.

Poor sleep is a serious health risk and can make you sick, but there are simple steps you can follow to develop good sleep habits that will enable you to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer.

One of the best things you can do to achieve a good night’s sleep is to establish a regular pre-sleep routine. Most insomnia experts advise patients to establish a routine that relaxes them right before bedtime.

During the menopause 40%-50% of women experience problems with sleep.

Some suffer from restless legs syndrome, others feel daytime sleepiness, and many wake up several times in the night.

The most common causes are depression, anxiety, and menopause itself. Hormone changes cause bad dreams and irregular sleeping patterns and reduce your ability to sleep.

If you’re having difficulty getting good, restful sleep try relaxation techniques to ease your mind. Sit still and try relaxation exercises with your eyes closed. Concentrate on breathing steadily and take longer, deep breaths diaphragmatically.

Other causes of insomnia are as follows:

  • Stress and tension
  • Anxiety
  • Watching late night TV
  • Taking medications that cause you to sleep less or improperly
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Taking over the counter medications
  • Lack of exercise
  • Napping too much during the day, which can cause drowsiness
  • Alcohol and drug dependence
  • Environmental factors
  • Digestive disorders
  • Medical conditions like heart disease, which cause increased stress and disrupt a good night’s sleep

If your insomnia keeps you awake for more than two weeks, you should see your doctor because the problem could be serious. Common causes of insomnia lasting longer than two weeks are depression, anxiety and chronic pain.

Insomnia during pregnancy affects approximately 78% of women.

“The fact that [insomnia] is so common is very reassuring, but what’s troubling is that most people don’t know anything about it,” says Steven Spielman, MD, the associate director of the Johns Hopkins Sleep Disorders Center in Baltimore.

Insomnia often goes undiagnosed, and even people who do make it to the doctor’s office frequently receive inadequate treatment for their sleep disorder.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, 39 percent of Americans self-report a sleep problem that is severe enough to affect daytime functioning, and 59 percent report at least one symptom of poor sleep, including not feeling rested, not sleeping well, and problems going to sleep.

The good news is that insomnia is often treatable.

“Fully 80 to 90 percent of people who suffer from insomnia can significantly benefit from treatment,” says Mark Christensen, PhD, a sleep psychologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Adults over 65 are the most likely to suffer from insomnia.

Insomnia affects approximately 20% of people age 65 or older, and one in three adults experience some degree of insomnia at least once in a year.

25% of children suffer from insomnia.

Insomnia is defined as the trouble of getting to sleep or staying asleep. If you have trouble sleeping and have stayed up for a long period of time, you are considered to have a sleep debt. Doctors recommend that you try to fall back asleep as quickly as you can, so you can get back on track for the next day. Sleeping in on the weekend is worth a try during your insomnia. If this does not help, some doctors will recommend that you take an Ambien or Melatonin to help you get back on track.

Teenage sufferers of insomnia are at a higher risk of depression.

Approximately 35% of insomniacs have a family history of insomnia.

Fun Facts about Insomnia

Insomnia can be defined as trouble falling asleep, staying asleep and waking up too early, every day for at least three nights each week. To put it in perspective, if you are only experiencing one of the three symptoms of insomnia (for e.g., trouble falling asleep) for fewer than three nights each week and otherwise feel okay, you do not have insomnia.

Key Sleep Facts and Stats

Scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, US, found that about 40 million adults in America experience symptoms of insomnia each year.

Insomnia is twice as common in women as in men. Since insomnia is highly subjective, based on each individual’s experience, there’s no specific reason to explain why this is the case.

While caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco can cause sleep problems in the short term, they are not generally long-term causes of insomnia.

Researchers have found that global economic status, scarcity of food, and stress are correlated with higher risk for insomnia.

African-Americans are more likely to have symptoms of insomnia than whites. It’s known that African-Americans experience more stressful events than whites and have lower income levels.

Historically those suffering from insomnia were perceived as morally suspect. The Devil himself was seen as an insomniac.

This is most likely due to contemporary beliefs that those who sleep too little were guilty of laziness, and those who sleep too much were guilty of the sin of gluttony. Insomnia was once thought to be the result of envious important people too busy to get enough rest. Though the concern of contemporary society about the moral integrity of insomniacs is gone, it is not forgotten.

Vincent Van Gogh was an insomniac.

In order to fall asleep he would reportedly take a mixture of brandy and absinthe or leave a candle burning all night, which may have caused his eventual death from a fire.

The famous author, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, suffered from chronic insomnia. He once stayed awake so long that he believed he stopped breathing. After a failed suicide attempt, he eventually started taking a spoonful of vodka every hour to induce sleep.

Adolf Hitler and Napoleon Bonaparte, both, had trouble sleeping. Hitler would stay up for days on end, drinking alcohol and taking drugs, while Napoleon’s sleeplessness was so severe that he would often make his servants stay up with him to watch his sleep.

Insomnia is also considered to be a symptom of other health problems. People with heart disease or high blood pressure often have difficulty falling and staying asleep.

Other causes of insomnia can be lifestyle choices or psychological reasons. Some common lifestyle issues that cause a difficulty with falling and staying asleep include:

  • tStress
  • tHigh alcohol and caffeine intake
  • tWatching too much TV
  • tLack of exercise
  • tLack of sleep the night before (rebound effect)

tExciting activities taking place before bedtime, like playing video games or watching scary movies.

In Shakespeare’s plays, insomnia is often a condition that befalls an unsettled mind.

Impatiently awaiting a return of the sunlit world, the insomniac’s restlessness while hours pass like dawning is a fitting analogy. The condition has been portrayed down through the ages in art, literature and, most notably, as a psychological character trait in film. From Evelyn Mulwray in Roman Polanski’s Chinatown, to Clarice in The Silence of the Lambs, the nocturnal condition has appeared as a physiological tic and as an artistic model for mental imbalance.

More than 100 years after Shakespeare’s death, a French physician named Louis was one of the first to give a name to the disorder. In 1817 he coined the term insomnia to describe his theory that failing to fall asleep was the result of an overstimulated mind. He classified insomniacs as either passive or excitable, the former induced by a lack of stimuli, the latter coming from too much.

The first causal theories that followed in Louis’s chronology came from the likes of Robert Louis Stevenson in “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” who believed that an excess of snoozing could wreak havoc on the human psyche. A more specific explanation for insomnia would not arise for another 100 years, though, with the efforts of psychoanalysts.

Counting sheep does not help you fall asleep at night.

Laying in bed for over an hour while you are trying to fall asleep results in decreased overall melatonin levels. Higher melatonin is associated with good sleep. Poor or short amounts of sleep have been linked to numerous health problems including obesity, diabetes, depression, heart disease, a weakened immune system and poor cognitive function.


The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) conducted a Sleep in America poll. To gather the data, they used a dual frame landline and cell phone sampling of adults. The sampling method was proportionate to the population of different regions in representative phone surveys. This means the samples had the same demographics as the actual population of the US.

Based off a total of 1500 adults ages 30 years or older. From the information provided by the NSF Sleep in America Poll, Insomniacs made up an estimated 40 million Americans.

Over 25% of adults ages 30 years or older experience insomnia for at least a few nights out of the week. Around 10%-20% of people around the world experience lifelong chronic insomnia.