Last Updated: May 25, 2023

Insomnia is a common sleep condition which involves trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or both. The resulting insufficient or poor-quality sleep can lead to worsened quality of life and functional impairments.

Insomnia falls under theSleepcategory.

What is insomnia?

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder comprising low-quality sleep or not enough sleep due to trouble initiating sleep and/or maintaining sleep. Insomnia can be short term (lasting days or weeks) or chronic (lasting 3 months or longer).[1] Insomnia occurs in 10-15% of the general population, with a greater prevalence in women during and after menopause, as well as older adults. In fact, up to 50% of older adults report insomnia or sleep disturbances.[2][3]

What are the main signs and symptoms of insomnia?

Some symptoms of insomnia include:[1]

  • Lying awake for a long time before being able to fall asleep
  • Only sleeping for short periods of time
  • Staying awake throughout most of the night
  • Feeling unrested or unrefreshed after sleep
  • Involuntarily waking up too early
How is insomnia diagnosed?

A healthcare provider will diagnose insomnia by taking a detailed medical history, including many questions about sleep habits. A physical exam is done to rule out other medical or mental conditions that can cause difficulty sleeping. Sometimes sleep studies can be performed to arrive at an accurate diagnosis. Insomnia is characterized as “chronic” when sleep problems occur at least 3 nights per week for at least 3 months.[2]

What are some of the main medical treatments for insomnia?

Medication treatments for insomnia are indicated for improving sleep onset, sleep maintenance, or both. Examples of medications with evidence of benefit for insomnia include orexin receptor antagonists (suvorexant), nonbenzodiazepine hypnotics (eszopiclone Lunesta, zolpidem Ambien, zaleplon Sonata), certain benzodiazepines (triazolam, temazepam), melatonin agonists (ramelteon Rozerem), and certain antidepressants (doxepin Silenor). Although medications such as trazodone, tiagabine, and diphenhydramine are commonly used, experts do not recommend them for chronic insomnia due to potential harms and inadequate evidence of benefit.[4]

Have any supplements been studied for insomnia?

Supplements studied for insomnia include melatonin, valerian root, kava-kava, chamomile, lavender, and many others. These supplements have sedating effects and can increase relaxation and induce sleep in some people with short-term insomnia.[3] There is much less research on supplements for chronic insomnia.[4]

How could diet affect insomnia?

A common therapeutic approach for alleviating insomnia is maintaining sleep hygiene, a part of which involves diet. Sleep hygiene techniques include not eating too much at night and not eating too late into the night. It also includes avoiding or limiting the intake of alcohol, caffeine, and caffeine-containing foods and drinks (e.g., coffee, tea, and chocolate), especially when it is close to bedtime. Following a healthy, nutrient-rich diet (e.g., high in fruits and vegetables, low in refined sugar) is also considered a part of maintaining good sleep hygiene.[3][2][5]

Are there any other treatments for insomnia?

For short-term insomnia, sleep hygiene techniques which involve adjusting lifestyle factors (e.g., diet, exercise) and environmental factors (e.g., light, noise, temperature) is commonly recommended, however, sleep hygiene is not recommended as a solo treatment for chronic insomnia. For chronic insomnia, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has good evidence of benefit, especially when used in combination with other therapies. Sleep hygiene and CBT are usually recommended in combination with other behavioral treatments such as sleep restriction, relaxation therapy, and stimulus control.[6]

What causes insomnia?

Common causes of insomnia include work stress, relationship issues, or traumatic events. Often times, insomnia occurs in response to certain medical conditions, medicines, and other sleep disorders (e.g., obstructive sleep apnea). Caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, and other substances can also trigger insomnia. However, in some cases, insomnia is considered to be a primary problem because it does not have an identifiable cause, although risk factors include long-lasting emotional upset, stress, travel, and shift work.[1]

Looking for a Supplement guide?

Our Supplement Guides give you unbiased research-based recommendations that you can immediately apply to improve your health. Insomnia is related to the following Supplement Guide:
Examine Database: Insomnia
What works and what doesn't?

Unlock the full potential of Examine

Get started

Don't miss out on the latest research

  1. ^MedlinePlus (Internet). Bethesda (MD): National Library of Medicine (US); (updated 2018 December 4; cited 2022 May 6)
  2. ^Kaur H, Spurling BC, Bollu PCChronic InsomniaStatPearls.(2022-07)
  3. ^Momin RR, Ketvertis KShort Term InsomniaStatPearls.(2022-07)
  4. ^Michael J Sateia, Daniel J Buysse, Andrew D Krystal, David N Neubauer, Jonathan L HealdClinical Practice Guideline for the Pharmacologic Treatment of Chronic Insomnia in Adults: An American Academy of Sleep Medicine Clinical Practice GuidelineJ Clin Sleep Med.(2017 Feb 15)
  5. ^Justyna Godos, Giuseppe Grosso, Sabrina Castellano, Fabio Galvano, Filippo Caraci, Raffaele FerriAssociation between diet and sleep quality: A systematic reviewSleep Med Rev.(2021 Jan 16)
  6. ^Edinger JD, Arnedt JT, Bertisch SM, Carney CE, Harrington JJ, Lichstein KL, Sateia MJ, Troxel WM, Zhou ES, Kazmi U, Heald JL, Martin JLBehavioral and psychological treatments for chronic insomnia disorder in adults: an American Academy of Sleep Medicine clinical practice guideline.J Clin Sleep Med.(2021-02-01)
  7. ^Herxheimer A, Petrie KJMelatonin for the prevention and treatment of jet lagCochrane Database Syst Rev.(2002)
  8. ^Jin Hwa Kim, Young Sang Lyu, Sang Yong KimImpact of Social Jetlag on Weight Change in Adults: Korean National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2016-2017Int J Environ Res Public Health.(2020 Jun 18)
  9. ^F Waldhauser, H R Lieberman, H J Lynch, M Waldhauser, K Herkner, H Frisch, H Vierhapper, W Waldhäusl, M Schemper, R J WurtmanA pharmacological dose of melatonin increases PRL levels in males without altering those of GH, LH, FSH, TSH, testosterone or cortisolNeuroendocrinology.(1987 Aug)
  10. ^R Valcavi, C Dieguez, C Azzarito, C A Edwards, C Dotti, M D Page, I Portioli, M F ScanlonEffect of oral administration of melatonin on GH responses to GRF 1-44 in normal subjectsClin Endocrinol (Oxf).(1987 Apr)
  11. ^Patrick Lemoine, Doron Garfinkel, Moshe Laudon, Tali Nir, Nava ZisapelProlonged-release melatonin for insomnia - an open-label long-term study of efficacy, safety, and withdrawalTher Clin Risk Manag.(2011)
  12. ^Posadzki PP, Bajpai R, Kyaw BM, Roberts NJ, Brzezinski A, Christopoulos GI, Divakar U, Bajpai S, Soljak M, Dunleavy G, Jarbrink K, Nang EEK, Soh CK, Car JMelatonin and health: an umbrella review of health outcomes and biological mechanisms of actionBMC Med.(2018 Feb 5)
  13. ^Silman REMelatonin: a contraceptive for the ninetiesEur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol.(1993 Apr)
  14. ^Lelak K, Vohra V, Neuman MI, Toce MS, Sethuraman UPediatric Melatonin Ingestions - United States, 2012-2021.MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep.(2022-Jun-03)
  15. ^Erland LA, Saxena PKMelatonin Natural Health Products and Supplements: Presence of Serotonin and Significant Variability of Melatonin ContentJ Clin Sleep Med.(2017 Feb 15)
  16. ^Matsumoto M, Sack RL, Blood ML, Lewy AJThe amplitude of endogenous melatonin production is not affected by melatonin treatment in humansJ Pineal Res.(1997 Jan)
  17. ^Arendt J, Bojkowski C, Folkard S, Franey C, Marks V, Minors D, Waterhouse J, Wever RA, Wildgruber C, Wright JSome effects of melatonin and the control of its secretion in humansCiba Found Symp.(1985)
  18. ^Hirshkowitz M, Whiton K, Albert SM, Alessi C, Bruni O, DonCarlos L, Hazen N, Herman J, Katz ES, Kheirandish-Gozal L, Neubauer DN, O'Donnell AE, Ohayon M, Peever J, Rawding R, Sachdeva RC, Setters B, Vitiello MV, Ware JC, Adams Hillard PJNational Sleep Foundation's sleep time duration recommendations: methodology and results summarySleep Health.(2015 Mar)
  19. ^Choi OH, Shamim MT, Padgett WL, Daly JWCaffeine and theophylline analogues: correlation of behavioral effects with activity as adenosine receptor antagonists and as phosphodiesterase inhibitorsLife Sci.(1988)
  20. ^Ikeda M, Sugiyama T, Wallace CS, Gompf HS, Yoshioka T, Miyawaki A, Allen CNCircadian dynamics of cytosolic and nuclear Ca2+ in single suprachiasmatic nucleus neuronsNeuron.(2003 Apr 24)
  21. ^Kong H, Jones PP, Koop A, Zhang L, Duff HJ, Chen SRCaffeine induces Ca2+ release by reducing the threshold for luminal Ca2+ activation of the ryanodine receptorBiochem J.(2008 Sep 15)
  22. ^Wright KP Jr, McHill AW, Birks BR, Griffin BR, Rusterholz T, Chinoy EDEntrainment of the human circadian clock to the natural light-dark cycleCurr Biol.(2013 Aug 19)
  23. ^Düzgün G, Durmaz Akyol AEffect of Natural Sunlight on Sleep Problems and Sleep Quality of the Elderly Staying in the Nursing HomeHolist Nurs Pract.(2017 Sep/Oct)
  24. ^Boubekri M, Cheung IN, Reid KJ, Wang CH, Zee PCImpact of windows and daylight exposure on overall health and sleep quality of office workers: a case-control pilot studyJ Clin Sleep Med.(2014 Jun 15)
  25. ^Mottram V, Middleton B, Williams P, Arendt JThe impact of bright artificial white and 'blue-enriched' light on sleep and circadian phase during the polar winterJ Sleep Res.(2011 Mar)
  26. ^Smolensky MH, Sackett-Lundeen LL, Portaluppi FNocturnal light pollution and underexposure to daytime sunlight: Complementary mechanisms of circadian disruption and related diseasesChronobiol Int.(2015)
  27. ^Whipps J, Byra M, Gerow KG, Hill Guseman EEvaluation of Nighttime Media Use and Sleep Patterns in First-semester College StudentsAm J Health Behav.(2018 May 1)
  28. ^Kinsey AW, Ormsbee MJThe health impact of nighttime eating: old and new perspectivesNutrients.(2015 Apr 9)
  29. ^Flausino NH, Da Silva Prado JM, de Queiroz SS, Tufik S, de Mello MTPhysical exercise performed before bedtime improves the sleep pattern of healthy young good sleepersPsychophysiology.(2012 Feb)
  30. ^Buman MP, Phillips BA, Youngstedt SD, Kline CE, Hirshkowitz MDoes nighttime exercise really disturb sleep? Results from the 2013 National Sleep Foundation Sleep in America PollSleep Med.(2014 Jul)
  31. ^Grønli J, Byrkjedal IK, Bjorvatn B, Nødtvedt Ø, Hamre B, Pallesen SReading from an iPad or from a book in bed: the impact on human sleep. A randomized controlled crossover trialSleep Med.(2016 May)
  32. ^Chang AM, Aeschbach D, Duffy JF, Czeisler CAEvening use of light-emitting eReaders negatively affects sleep, circadian timing, and next-morning alertnessProc Natl Acad Sci U S A.(2015 Jan 27)
  33. ^Stein MD, Friedmann PDDisturbed sleep and its relationship to alcohol useSubst Abus.(2005 Mar)
  34. ^Park SY, Oh MK, Lee BS, Kim HG, Lee WJ, Lee JH, Lim JT, Kim JYThe Effects of Alcohol on Quality of SleepKorean J Fam Med.(2015 Nov)
  35. ^Stone BMSleep and low doses of alcoholElectroencephalogr Clin Neurophysiol.(1980 Jun)
  36. ^Buysse DJ, Reynolds CF 3rd, Monk TH, Berman SR, Kupfer DJThe Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index: a new instrument for psychiatric practice and researchPsychiatry Res.(1989 May)
  37. ^Marco Fabbri, Alessia Beracci, Monica Martoni, Debora Meneo, Lorenzo Tonetti, Vincenzo NataleMeasuring Subjective Sleep Quality: A ReviewInt J Environ Res Public Health.(2021 Jan 26)
  38. ^Daniel J Buysse, Sonia Ancoli-Israel, Jack D Edinger, Kenneth L Lichstein, Charles M MorinRecommendations for a standard research assessment of insomniaSleep.(2006 Sep)
Examine Database References
  1. Sleep Duration - Jinrong Lian, Yi Zhong, Hang Li, Siyuan Yang, Jiahe Wang, Xiang Li, Xinmin Zhou, Gang ChenEffects of saffron supplementation on improving sleep quality: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trialsSleep Med.(2022 Apr)
  2. Sleep Duration - Langade D, Kanchi S, Salve J, Debnath K, Ambegaokar DEfficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) Root Extract in Insomnia and Anxiety: A Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-controlled StudyCureus.(2019 Sep 28)
  3. Sleep Duration - Jasmine Mah, Tyler PitreOral magnesium supplementation for insomnia in older adults: a Systematic Review & Meta-AnalysisBMC Complement Med Ther.(2021 Apr 17)
  4. Sleep Duration - Behnood Abbasi, Masud Kimiagar, Khosro Sadeghniiat, Minoo M Shirazi, Mehdi Hedayati, Bahram RashidkhaniThe effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trialJ Res Med Sci.(2012 Dec)
  5. Sleep Duration - Hornyak M, Voderholzer U, Hohagen F, Berger M, Riemann DMagnesium therapy for periodic leg movements-related insomnia and restless legs syndrome: an open pilot study.Sleep.(1998-Aug-01)
  6. Sleep Duration - Lee J, Jung HY, Lee SI, Choi JH, Kim SGEffects of Passiflora incarnata Linnaeus on polysomnographic sleep parameters in subjects with insomnia disorder: a double-blind randomized placebo-controlled study.Int Clin Psychopharmacol.(2020-Jan)
  7. Sleep Quality - Lemoine P, Nir T, Laudon M, Zisapel NProlonged-release melatonin improves sleep quality and morning alertness in insomnia patients aged 55 years and older and has no withdrawal effectsJ Sleep Res.(2007 Dec)
  8. Sleep Quality - Luthringer R, Muzet M, Zisapel N, Staner LThe effect of prolonged-release melatonin on sleep measures and psychomotor performance in elderly patients with insomniaInt Clin Psychopharmacol.(2009 Sep)
  9. Insomnia Signs and Symptoms - van Geijlswijk IM, Mol RH, Egberts TC, Smits MGEvaluation of sleep, puberty and mental health in children with long-term melatonin treatment for chronic idiopathic childhood sleep onset insomniaPsychopharmacology (Berl).(2011 Jul)
  10. Sleep Quality - Inn-Sook Lee, Gyung-Joo Lee[Effects of lavender aromatherapy on insomnia and depression in women college students]Taehan Kanho Hakhoe Chi.(2006 Feb)
  11. Sleep Quality - George T Lewith, Anthony Dean Godfrey, Philip PrescottA single-blinded, randomized pilot study evaluating the aroma of Lavandula augustifolia as a treatment for mild insomniaJ Altern Complement Med.(2005 Aug)
  12. Sleep Quality - Li-Wei Chien, Su Li Cheng, and Chi Feng LiuThe Effect of Lavender Aromatherapy on Autonomic Nervous System in Midlife Women with InsomniaEvidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.()
  13. Sleep Quality - Hemmeter U, Annen B, Bischof R, Brüderlin U, Hatzinger M, Rose U, Holsboer-Trachsler EPolysomnographic effects of adjuvant ginkgo biloba therapy in patients with major depression medicated with trimipraminePharmacopsychiatry.(2001 Mar)
  14. Sleep Quality - D E Shumov, I A Yakovenko, N N Alipov, Z V Bakaeva, E B Yakunina, A N Minyuk, A V Vinokurov, V B Dorokhov[The effect of music containing binaural beats on daytime fall-asleep dynamics]Zh Nevrol Psikhiatr Im S S Korsakova.(2020)
  15. Sleep Quality - David J Rog, Turo J Nurmikko, Tim Friede, Carolyn A YoungRandomized, controlled trial of cannabis-based medicine in central pain in multiple sclerosisNeurology.(2005 Sep 27)
  16. Sleep Quality - Mark A Ware, Tongtong Wang, Stan Shapiro, Ann Robinson, Thierry Ducruet, Thao Huynh, Ann Gamsa, Gary J Bennett, Jean-Paul ColletSmoked cannabis for chronic neuropathic pain: a randomized controlled trialCMAJ.(2010 Oct 5)
  17. Sleep Quality - Fernández-San-Martín MI, Masa-Font R, Palacios-Soler L, Sancho-Gómez P, Calbó-Caldentey C, Flores-Mateo GEffectiveness of Valerian on insomnia: a meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trialsSleep Med.(2010 Jun)
  18. Sleep Quality - Leathwood PD, Chauffard FAqueous extract of valerian reduces latency to fall asleep in manPlanta Med.(1985 Apr)
  19. Sleep Quality - Shinjyo N, Waddell G, Green JValerian Root in Treating Sleep Problems and Associated Disorders-A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis.J Evid Based Integr Med.(2020)
  20. Sleep Quality - Bent S, Padula A, Moore D, Patterson M, Mehling WValerian for sleep: a systematic review and meta-analysis.Am J Med.(2006-Dec)
  21. Insomnia Signs and Symptoms - Taavoni S, Ekbatani N, Kashaniyan M, Haghani HEffect of valerian on sleep quality in postmenopausal women: a randomized placebo-controlled clinical trialMenopause.(2011 Sep)