Insomnia describes difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. People with insomnia may also wake up too early or suffer from poor quality sleep.
A common sleep disorder, insomnia can be further classified according to its cause or duration. The terms primary insomnia and secondary insomnia relate to causes of the disorder. Acute, intermittent and chronic insomnia types describe how long insomnia lasts.
Primary and Secondary Insomnia
If you have primary insomnia, the disorder is not due to a specific, underlying medical condition. Stress, anxiety and poor sleep hygiene can all be causes of primary insomnia.
Secondary insomnia describes insomnia that is caused by a specific medical condition, such as depression, restless leg syndrome or sleep apnea.
Acute Insomnia/Transient Insomnia
Acute insomnia, or transient insomnia, describes insomnia that lasts for a short time. Acute insomnia may last a single night or several weeks. Stress, changes in schedule and time zone shifts are common causes of transient insomnia. It is sometimes called adjustment sleep disorder.
Intermittent insomnia is used to describe occasional, recurring episodes of transient insomnia. The causes of intermittent types of insomnia are similar to those of transient insomnia.
In contrast with transient insomnia, chronic insomnia describes long-term sleep disturbances. Insomnia that occurs several nights a week for more than a month is generally classified as chronic insomnia. About 10 to 15 percent of adults suffer from chronic insomnia, according to the Mayo Clinic (2009).
The causes of chronic insomnia can be complex, and are often linked to underlying conditions such as depression, arthritis, asthma or sleep apnea. However, other factors can also contribute to chronic insomnia, including substance abuse and long-term stress.
Types of Insomnia and Incidence Rates
Whether acute or chronic, primary or secondary, insomnia is a common complaint. Up to a third of Americans display some symptoms of insomnia, according to the Mayo Clinic (2009).
Some insomnia types become more common as people age, with incidence rates increasing after age 60. As people age, changes to sleep patterns often result in difficultly sleeping and decreased sleep quality.
Older women may be more susceptible to some types of insomnia than men. Menopausal hot flashes can disrupt sleep and result in acute or chronic secondary insomnia.
Insomnia and Health Risks
Insomnia is associated with a variety of health problems. Whether primary or secondary, acute and chronic insomnia indicate that something is amiss with a person’s health.
People suffering from insomnia are more likely to be involved in car accidents and have a reduced quality of life. Insomnia can also increase a person’s risk of developing heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. Many insomnia types can be treated successfully, with a return to restful sleep.
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