What is Terminal Insomnia?

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  • Written By: Summer Banks
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 12 September 2019
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Terminal insomnia is a medical condition affecting sleep patterns. Typically, people who suffer from terminal insomnia wake up after only four to five hours of sleep. For those afflicted, getting back to sleep can be difficult, resulting in fatigue, irritability, and lack of concentration.

The causes of terminal insomnia can include emotional stress, or physical illness or pain. Stress can cause frustration and anxiety, which can lead to tossing, turning, and unhealthy sleep patterns. In addition to terminal insomnia, people with higher than normal levels of stress may also suffer from other forms of insomnia, including the inability to fall asleep.

Physical illness or pain may also result in terminal insomnia. Digestive problems and injury are two common causes. When digestive problems occur, the body can take longer to digest food, which can lead to increased energy at night. Too much energy can cause the body to wake prematurely. Pain associated with an injury may also awaken the person during the night, leaving them without adequate sleep.

Treating terminal insomnia can be as simple as treating its root causes. Practicing relaxation techniques before bed may reduce stress levels. This winding down can be a part of a nightly ritual used to prepare for bed every night. A bedtime routine can reset the body's circadian rhythms, which often affect sleep patterns.


Prescription medications and therapy may help the body stay asleep longer, if terminal insomnia is caused by a physical illness or injury. On the other hand, certain prescription medications may lead to difficulty sleeping. Communication with a doctor about all medications' potential side effects, including insomnia, can lead to drug changes that can solve sleep problems.

Other treatments for this type of insomnia can include changing sleep times and the sleeping environment. Some people need fewer hours of sleep than others. Changing bed time to a later hour may affect sleep pattern just enough to resolve the terminal insomnia. The person's sleeping environment could be causing difficulty in resting. Television and radio noise may lead to early termination of sleep.

Noise and light in the bed area may also lead to terminal insomnia symptoms. Keeping a sleep diary by the bedside can help narrow down the cause of sleep problems. Upon waking, it is important to note what is happening at that precise moment. The temperature of the room, outside noises, and light levels can be important factors in staying asleep through the night. Once the causes are narrowed down, working to reduce such disturbances may help.


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Post 3

I have terminal insomnia. I wake up at four in the morning and can't fall back asleep. I've actually found a solution-- TV. I turn it on and I'm asleep again after ten minutes. I'm actually not happy that I depend on the sound of TV to fall asleep. I spend most of my night on the couch in front of the TV. If I go back to bed, my sleep just goes out the window. It's strange.

Sometimes I make a herbal tea like lemon balm which helps. Or hot milk helps too. But nothing works like the sound of TV. I think I've programmed myself to relax at the sound of TV. I'm not sure if this is good or bad.

Post 2

@fify-- I think she needs to see a doctor as well. Perhaps therapy might be beneficial if the cause of her insomnia is psychological to some degree.

I find the name of this insomnia strange. It sounds like it would kill someone but I don't think anyone dies from terminal insomnia.

Post 1

My roommate has terminal insomnia. She apparently developed it as a child when she had a painful back injury. She couldn't sleep properly for many days because of the pain. And not sleeping for long became a habit.

She does fall asleep but wakes up soon after. The entire night, she falls in and out of sleep and always has the TV on. She has a lot of issues with energy and concentration during the day because of it. I always tell her to see a doctor but she doesn't believe that it will help.

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