Health Zone



Insomnia refers to a disturbance in sleep. It might be a difficulty in getting to sleep (sleep initiation) or in staying asleep. Difficulties with sleep resulting in poor sleep quality can have an impact on feelings of fatigue, concentration and mood.

Signs & symptoms

Insomnia relates to discontentment with either sleep quality or quantity, despite having the opportunity to sleep. It includes having one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty in getting off to sleep
  • Difficulty staying asleep, and experiencing waking during the night. There might also be difficulty returning to sleep following waking
  • Waking early in the morning and unable to return to sleep

To be diagnosed with insomnia the disturbance must cause significant distress and impact on daily life. The sleep problems must also occur at least three nights a week and have persisted for at least three months.



Older people and those in poor health are at greatest risk of insomnia. Shift workers are also considered as having a higher risk as well. Women have twice the rate of insomnia in comparison to men. It is thought that this might be linked to women’s higher rates of anxiety and depression. US estimates put the prevalence at 6-10% of the population.

Main treatments


  • Initial treatment ensures there are good sleep habits are in place. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) has been shown to be better in the medium and long term than sleeping medication. CBT approach to sleep involves a number of elements, including establishing a good sleep routine, removing things that can impede sleep, and also deals with anxiety about not sleeping.
  • Medication may be used in conjunction with support from a medical practitioner.