Sleep Med Psychophysiol.  1994 Jun;1(1):3-8.

The Causes and Developmental Mechanism of Insomnia

  • 1Yongjung Brain Function and Sleep Research Center, Seoul, Korea.


With the recent development of sleep medicine, insomnia has been perceived as a disease from a simple symptom. As there are various causes in a disease, proper treatment according to each cause I necessary for a more effective treatment. In general, insomnia is classified into five categrories of physical, physiological, psychological, psychiatric and pharmacological aspects. However, such categorizations are often insufficient in treating insomnia. Futhermore understanding of the developmental mechanisms of insomnia is required. The function of sleep is developed and maintained through the balance of the reciprocal forces of sleep and arousal. These forces are contantly regulated by what is called a circadian rhythm. Sleep is induced by this rhythm which is affected by factors such as awakening time in the morning, amount of intellectual function, amount and time length of physical exercise and sunlight. Insomnia could develop when this rhythm is delayed and leads to a "forbidden zone" which is a very difficult period for inducing sleep about two to four hours before the routine bedtime. Whereas sleep gradually develops in line with the circardian rhythm, arousal can occur very abruptly by any cause triggered by emotional discomfort or anxiety. Such characteristic and emotional factors as perfectionism, separation anxiety, secondary gain, insecurity, and negative cognition may provoke the inner anxiety and fear for insomnia, which can lead acute insomnia to a chronic one. As chronic insomnia is developed by multiple causes and factors, integrated approaches through analysis of above mentioned factors will be more effective in the treatment of insomnia than a simple administration of hypnotics.


Insomnia; Causes; Mechanism

MeSH Terms

Anxiety, Separation
Circadian Rhythm
Hypnotics and Sedatives
Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders*
Hypnotics and Sedatives
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