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Insomnia is the subjective feeling of not being able to sleep when or as much as desired. It is the most common sleep disorder, with a prevalence that varies with age (higher in adults) and sex (higher in women). 20-30% of the population report sleeping difficulties and 2-3% are prescribed hypnotics.
Before adulthood, insomnia is rare, except for childhood insomnia due to bad habits. There is difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep and early awakening. The duration of insomnia is the best guide for its evaluation and treatment.
Acute, transient or short-term insomnia (less than 3 months) usually occurs in people with no history of sleep disturbances. It is often due to stress or a significantly worrying event. For acute insomnia, hypnotic drugs may be prescribed for a few weeks.
Long-term or chronic insomnia (more than 3 months) can be associated with a wide variety of conditions, whether neurological or psychological. Hypnotics are not prescribed for chronic insomnia, but relaxation and cognitive techniques are recommended.