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Insomnia

Difficulty in going to sleep or getting enough sleep.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Cancer Institute)

About Insomnia

Insomnia (in-SOM-ne-ah) is a common sleep disorder. People who have insomnia have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or both. As a result, they may get too little sleep or have poor-quality sleep. They may not feel refreshed when they wake up.

Overview

Insomnia can be acute (short-term) or chronic (ongoing). Acute insomnia is common and often is brought on by situations such as stress at work, family pressures, or a traumatic event. Acute insomnia lasts for days or weeks.

Chronic insomnia lasts for a month or longer. Most cases of chronic insomnia are secondary, which means they are the symptom or side effect of some other problem. Certain medical conditions, medicines, sleep disorders, and substances can cause secondary insomnia.

In contrast, primary insomnia isn't due to medical problems, medicines, or other substances. It is its own distinct disorder, and its cause isn't well understood... Read more about Insomnia

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Acupuncture for insomnia

Although conventional non‐pharmacological and pharmacological treatments for insomnia are effective in many people, alternative therapies such as acupuncture are widely practised. This review was conducted to examine the efficacy and safety of acupuncture in treating insomnia. Thirty‐three randomised controlled trials were eligible for inclusion in the review, involving 2293 participants. We considered all studies to have a high risk of bias. They were diverse in the types of participants, acupuncture treatments and sleep outcome measures used, which limited our ability to draw reliable conclusions. Currently there is a lack of high‐quality clinical evidence to inform us about the efficacy and safety of acupuncture.

Ramelteon for chronic insomnia in adults: a systematic review

Bibliographic details: Zhou JX, Wu FB, Tang Y.  Ramelteon for chronic insomnia in adults: a systematic review. Chinese Journal of Evidence-Based Medicine 2012; 12(3): 314-319

Effectiveness and safety of doxepin for primary insomnia: a systematic review

Bibliographic details: Yuan JQ, Yang KH, Liu YL, Yang SP.  Effectiveness and safety of doxepin for primary insomnia: a systematic review. Chinese Journal of Evidence-Based Medicine 2010; 10(11): 1325-1330

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Summaries for consumers

Acupuncture for insomnia

Although conventional non‐pharmacological and pharmacological treatments for insomnia are effective in many people, alternative therapies such as acupuncture are widely practised. This review was conducted to examine the efficacy and safety of acupuncture in treating insomnia. Thirty‐three randomised controlled trials were eligible for inclusion in the review, involving 2293 participants. We considered all studies to have a high risk of bias. They were diverse in the types of participants, acupuncture treatments and sleep outcome measures used, which limited our ability to draw reliable conclusions. Currently there is a lack of high‐quality clinical evidence to inform us about the efficacy and safety of acupuncture.

Comparing Newer Drugs for Insomnia

How do newer drugs compare in the treatment of insomnia?

Bright light therapy for sleep problems in adults aged 60+

Sleep problems become more common with age, affect quality of life for individuals and their families, and can increase healthcare costs. Older people are often prescribed a range of drugs for their health problems (including with sleep) many of which have side effects. This review considered the effectiveness of bright light treatment (also known as phototherapy). This aims to improve sleep by restoring the disturbed cycle of circadian rhythms found in some people with sleep problems by the administration of very high doses of fluorescent light for periods of around two hours a day. Reviewers found no trials on which to base conclusions for the effectiveness of this treatment.

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Terms to know

Acute
Describes something that happens suddenly and for a short time. Opposite of chronic, or long lasting.
Chronic
Refers to disorders that last a long time, often years. Chronic is the opposite of acute, or brief.
Sleep
A natural and periodic state of rest during which consciousness of the world is suspended.
Sleep Deprivation
The condition of not having enough sleep; it can be either chronic or acute. A chronic sleep-restricted state can cause fatigue, daytime sleepiness, clumsiness and weight loss or weight gain. It adversely affects the brain and cognitive function.
Sleep Disorders
A disturbance of normal sleep patterns.

More about Insomnia

Photo of an adult

Also called: Sleeplessness

Other terms to know: See all 5
Acute, Chronic, Sleep

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