Having trouble falling asleep at night can be frustrating and debilitating, and if this keeps happening to you, it's common to wonder if it's a sign of a bigger problem. However, not all sleep issues are insomnia, and there are a number of differences between temporarily not sleeping well and short-term insomnia. Occasional sleeplessness happens to most of us for a variety of reasons, but this can actually differ from insomnia, which is a more serious sleep disorder.
"Insomnia consists of difficulty falling asleep, having frequent or prolonged awakenings, or a final morning awakening that is earlier than desired," Dr. Teofilo Lee-Chiong, M.D., sleep expert, professor at National Jewish Health, and Chief Medical Liaison at Philips, tells Bustle. "[People] with insomnia often describe their sleep as short and inadequate, light and easily disrupted, of poor quality, or unsatisfactory. Many common conditions are associated with disrupted sleep and, thus, can be easily mistaken for an insomnia disorder."
It is important to recognize that the sleep disturbance in insomnia is repetitive, occurs despite having an adequate opportunity, condition and time to do sleep, and that it leads to impaired daytime functioning, says Dr. Lee-Chiong. These features differentiate a person with an insomnia disorder from one who is not sleeping well due to other causes. Insomnia can be chronic or short-term, depending on specific factors in your life.
Here are five key differences between not sleeping well and short-term insomnia, according to experts.