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Insomnia is a common problem — approximately half of American adults report experiencing insomnia at some time. It affects both men and women, although females and elderly are typically affected the most. The condition is classified into three groups depending on the length that it lasts:

  • Transient insomnia is defined as lasting for a few nights
  • Intermittent insomnia is periodic episodes of insomnia
  • Chronic insomnia occurs on most nights and lasts a month or more

Although insomnia is not considered a serious medical problem, lack of sleep can seriously impact your quality of life. It can make you feel tired, depressed and irritable, as well as impair your concentration.

Although it differs for each person, most adults need about seven to nine hours of sleep to feel completely rested. And, despite common belief, the need for sleep does not decrease with age.


Some of the most common causes of insomnia include:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Other factors that also can cause insomnia include:

  • Drinking too much caffeine throughout the day
  • Drinking alcohol before bedtime
  • Excessive napping during the day
  • Changes in your surroundings and sleep schedule
  • Noise
  • Jet lag
  • Certain medications
  • Pain from medical problems, such as arthritis

Our Approach to Insomnia

At UCSF, our sleep medicine specialists offer a comprehensive range of services and treatments for conditions such as insomnia, sleep apnea, periodic limb movement disorder, restless legs syndrome, narcolepsy and snoring. Accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, our sleep center sees more than 2,000 patients a year.

The first step in treating insomnia involves diagnosing any underlying causes that may be contributing, including lifestyle factors, physical conditions or psychological issues. Insomnia often goes away when these issues are addressed. However, some cases require other treatments. These may include medication, light therapy and behavioral techniques, such as relaxation therapy and sleep restriction treatment.

Awards & recognition

  • usnews-neurology

    Among the top hospitals in the nation

  • usnews-pulmonology

    Best in Northern California for pulmonology & lung surgery

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.