Zocdoc Answers

Medical questions & health advice by licensed doctors

"What is the difference between insomnia and just trouble sleeping?"

ZocdocAnswersWhat is the difference between insomnia and just trouble sleeping?


If I am having trouble sleeping does that mean that I have insomnia? It has been going on for like three months. Is insomnia a disease that you get or do I just need some sleeping pills or something?


It sounds like your current symptoms have been very disruptive to your quality of life. Inability to sleep or poor quality sleep can be very distressing. In general, insomnia refers to difficulty falling asleep or difficulty staying asleep or poor quality sleep. Primary insomnia refers to difficult sleeping that is not associated with an underlying medical diagnosis or medication. Secondary insomnia is that which occurs because of another medical, psychiatric, or environmental factor. Treating insomnia effectively requires a careful evaluation of your medical history, current environment, medications, and mental health factors to most appropriately identify which treatments might be effective for you. In your case, it sounds like the place to start is with your primary care physician. He or she will want to ask you many detailed questions about your difficulty sleeping. Do you have trouble falling asleep? Any medications you take at night? Do you have trouble staying asleep? Do any bed partners notice you waking up? Are you restless at night when you are sleeping? Do you ever wake up gasping for breath? Are you sleepy during the day? These and other detailed questions about your health (and of course a general physical exam) may help suggest some reasons for your sleeping difficulties. Your doctor may want to refer you to a sleep specialist for for a sleep test (called a polysomnogram). Medications may also help with sleep. However, before starting any medications, a thorough medical appointment is needed first. Hopefully you'll be back to sleeping soundly in no time!

Zocdoc Answers is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.