Transparency Disclosure — We may receive a referral fee for products purchased through the links on our site…Read More.

Transient Insomnia – What Are the Causes and How to Treat It?

Have you experienced trouble falling or staying asleep, but these episodes don’t last very long? You may have transient insomnia, a specific type of insomnia that lasts two to four weeks1. Transient insomnia is different from chronic insomnia because of its shorter duration. 

Though it is temporary, this sleep issue can still impact well-being. Even just a single night of sleep loss could leave you groggy the following day, putting you at an increased risk2 for accidents and negative work or academic performance.

What Is Transient Insomnia?

The two main types of insomnia are categorized by duration: acute and chronic. Acute insomnia is defined as happening at least three days a week for one week to three months. Chronic insomnia is defined as occurring three times a week or more for at least three months.

In the case of transient insomnia, some researchers say it is a category of acute insomnia that lasts on average between two and four weeks.1 

Within these durations, there are two additional categories, primary and co-morbid. Primary means the sleep issue exists with no other disease3, and co-morbid implies the individual’s condition is present alongside another medical or mental health complication4.

What Causes Transient Insomnia?


For many folks, stress5 can cause them to develop temporary sleep deprivation. Family problems6, work7, romantic relationships8, or financial issues9 are common stressors preventing someone from getting adequate rest. Rather than allowing your mind to relax, which is necessary for sleep onset, these worries can leave your mind racing. According to research10, this type of hyperarousal can contribute to insomnia.

Sleep Schedule Interruption

Transient sleeplessness could also be due to an interruption in your schedule. The perfect example would be jet lag from travel, particularly flying across multiple time zones11.

Traumatic Events

Traumatic events are also linked to temporary sleep issues. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5, sleep disturbance can be a symptom of post-traumatic stress disorder12 (PTSD). These types of experiences might include severe car accidents, natural disasters, violent attacks, sexual assault, abuse, or the death of a loved one.

How to Treat Transient Insomnia

For some, their sleeplessness will eventually go away on its own. However, there are things you can do to help mitigate this issue.

If your condition results from stress, finding ways to reduce stress should lead to better rest. You could journal before bed to write out your concerns or plan ways to address worries the next day. Regular exercise13, time outside14, or artistic outlets15 may also provide opportunities to minimize stressful feelings.

If interruptions to your schedule are the cause of your sleeplessness, you may benefit from planning out your schedule ahead of time. For example, if you will be traveling overseas, slowly adjust your sleep schedule to your destination. Furthermore, avoid taking a nap if you arrive during the day, as this could lead to trouble sleeping later that night. That said, sometimes a nap might be necessary for you to safely drive16 to your destination or take care of children, in which case a nap would be warranted.

The aftermath of a traumatic experience17 can be a difficult time for many people. However, mental health experts advise there are ways to help you cope. These tips include asking for support from family or friends, taking time for yourself, discussing your feelings, having a routine, connecting with other survivors, and partaking in normal activities with those you know. Depending on factors such as the trauma, the individual, their access to therapy, and finances, evidence-based psychotherapy18 can be useful in navigating the aftermath of a traumatic event. 

Furthermore, they say you should not expect to heal overnight, allowing yourself time to work through your emotions. If you notice your emotions worsen or you have no one to talk to, they suggest reaching out to a professional for help.

Read More: Best Mattresses for Insomnia

Frequently Asked Questions

Can short-term insomnia become chronic?

Research has found that about 75 percent19 of people with acute insomnia recover, while six percent go on to develop a chronic form.

Furthermore, certain factors could put individuals at a higher risk of ongoing sleep loss. According to a 2023 study20, loss of income, increased anxiety, depression, perceived stress, perceived worse general health, and increased pain were risk factors for sleep loss.

Is transient insomnia common?

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine21 (AASM), up to 35 percent of adults report having insomnia. More specifically, 15-20 percent have short-term insomnia, while 10 percent have chronic sleep loss. 

Can anemia cause anxiety and insomnia?

Researchers have looked into whether there might be a link between anemia22 and insufficient rest. Anemia is when the individual doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells to deliver sufficient oxygen to various body tissues.

The scientists studied a group of just over 1,000 adults, who were classified into three categories: nonanemic, non-iron-deficient anemic, and iron-deficient anemic. Their results suggest that those who were non-iron-deficient anemic had a higher chance of exhibiting sleeplessness than those who were nonanemic.22 However, more research on this topic is needed as this study had a few limitations.

  1. Vargas, Ivan., et al. “Acute and Chronic Insomnia: What Has Time and/or Hyperarousal Got to Do with It?”. Brain Sciences. 2020.
  2. Boardman, Johanna M., et al. “The impact of sleep loss on performance monitoring and error-monitoring: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Sleep Medicine Reviews. 2021.
  3. Xu, Huajun., et al. “Efficacy of melatonin for sleep disturbance in middle-aged primary insomnia: a double-blind, randomised clinical trial”. Sleep Medicine. 2020.
  4. Hertenstein, Elisabeth., et al. “Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia in patients with mental disorders and comorbid insomnia: A systematic review and meta-analysis”. Sleep Medicine Reviews. 2022.
  5. Lo Martire, Viviana., et al. “Stress & sleep: A relationship lasting a lifetime”. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews. 2020.
  6. Covington PhD, Lauren B., et al. “The contributory role of the family context in early childhood sleep health: A systematic review”. Sleep Health. 2021.
  7. Deng, Xuexue Deng., Liu, Xuelian,, Fang, Ronghua. “Evaluation of the correlation between job stress and sleep quality in community nurses”. Medicine. 2020.
  8. Cernadas Curotto, Patricia., et al. “Better not to quarrel after a sleepless night: preliminary evidence of the negative impact of sleep deprivation on interpersonal conflict”. Research Square. 2021.
  9. Du, Chen., et al. “Insufficient Sleep and Poor Sleep Quality Completely Mediate the Relationship between Financial Stress and Dietary Risk among Higher Education Students”. Behavioral Sciences. 2021.
  10. Dressle, Raphael J., Riemann, Dieter. “Hyperarousal in insomnia disorder: Current evidence and potential mechanisms”. Journal of Sleep Research. 2023.
  11. Dement, W.C. “Normal sleep, disturbed sleep, transient and persistent insomnia”. National Library of Medicine. 1986.
  12. “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5-TR)”. American Psychiatric Association. Webpage accessed March 29, 2024.
  13. Barrett MD PhD, Bruce., et al. “Mindfulness meditation and exercise both improve sleep quality: Secondary analysis of a randomized controlled trial of community dwelling adults”. Sleep Health. 2020.
  14. Yao, Wenfei., Zhang, Xiaofeng., Gong, Qi. “The effect of exposure to the natural environment on stress reduction: A meta-analysis”. Urban Forestry and Urban Greening. 2021.
  15. Shields, Margaret., et al. “Building Blocks and Coloring Away Stress: Utilizing Lego® and Coloring as Stress Reduction Strategies among University Students”. Journal of Health Education Teaching. 2020.
  16. BaHammam, Ahmed S., Hunasikatti, Mahadevappa., Pandi-Perumal, Seithikurippu R. “Traffic Safety in Sleep Deprivation, Sleepiness, and Sleep Disorders”. Sleep Apnea Frontiers. 2024.
  17. “Coping after a traumatic event”. Royal College of Psychiatrists. 2021.
  18. Bisson, Jonathan I., Olff, Miranda. “Prevention and treatment of PTSD: the current evidence base”. European Journal of Psychotraumatology. 2021.
  19. “One in four Americans develop insomnia each year: 75 percent of those with insomnia recover”. University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. 2018.
  20. Morin, Charles., et al. “0324 Protective and Risk Factors for Insomnia Over 5 Years in a Population-Based Sample of Adults”. Sleep. 2023.
  21. “Insomnia”. American Academy of Sleep Medicine. 2020.
Jill Zwarensteyn

Jill Zwarensteyn


About Author

Jill Zwarensteyn is the Editor for Sleep Advisor and a Certified Sleep Science Coach. She is enthusiastic about providing helpful and engaging information on all things sleep and wellness.

Combination Sleeper