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Insomnia disorder comprises symptoms during night and day that strongly affect quality of life and wellbeing. Prolonged sleep latency, difficulties to maintain sleep and early morning wakening characterize sleep complaints, whereas fatigue, reduced attention, impaired cognitive functioning, irritability, anxiety and low mood are key daytime impairments. Insomnia disorder is well acknowledged in all relevant diagnostic systems: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, 5th revision, International Classification of Sleep Disorders, 3rd version, and International Classification of Diseases, 11th revision. Insomnia disorder as a chronic condition is frequent (up to 10% of the adult population, with a preponderance of females), and signifies an important and independent risk factor for physical and, especially, mental health. Insomnia disorder diagnosis primarily rests on self-report. Objective measures like actigraphy or polysomnography are not (yet) part of the routine diagnostic canon, but play an important role in research. Disease concepts of insomnia range from cognitive-behavioural models to (epi-) genetics and psychoneurobiological approaches. The latter is derived from knowledge about basic sleep–wake regulation and encompass theories like rapid eye movement sleep instability/restless rapid eye movement sleep. Cognitive-behavioural models of insomnia led to the conceptualization of cognitive-behavioural therapy for insomnia, which is now considered as first-line treatment for insomnia worldwide. Future research strategies will include the combination of experimental paradigms with neuroimaging and may benefit from more attention to dysfunctional overnight alleviation of distress in insomnia. With respect to therapy, cognitive-behavioural therapy for insomnia merits widespread implementation, and digital cognitive-behavioural therapy may assist delivery along treatment guidelines. However, given the still considerable proportion of patients responding insufficiently to cognitive-behavioural therapy for insomnia, fundamental studies are highly necessary to better understand the brain and behavioural mechanisms underlying insomnia. Mediators and moderators of treatment response/non-response and the associated development of tailored and novel interventions also require investigation. Recent studies suggest that treatment of insomnia may prove to add significantly as a preventive strategy to combat the global burden of mental disorders.

Original publication




Journal article


Journal of Sleep Research

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