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Exclusive: Lindsey Vonn shares struggle with insomnia for the first time

The retired Olympic skier revealed on TODAY that she's struggled with the sleep disorder for nearly a decade.
/ Source: TODAY

Retired skiing legend Lindsey Vonn revealed that she suffers from the sleep disorder insomnia on the TODAY show Tuesday.

"I've actually had insomnia for quite some time, and it started when I had my first big knee surgery," she told TODAY's Craig Melvin.

The 37-year-old former Olympian is the most decorated female skier of all time. Vonn has won three Olympic medals, including the gold medal for downhill skiing at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, and four World Cup overall championships.

"As an athlete, you know how important sleep is," Vonn said. "I was lying in bed after surgery in a lot of pain and trying to sleep, and I couldn't. The anxiety behind it just got me down this really bad path of repetitively not sleeping."

"I approach my sleep just like I approach my skiing career. I've tried so many different things to try to rectify that," she continued, adding that only recently has she found a treatment that works for her. “I’m healthy, I’m happy, I’m well rested,” Vonn said.

The star athlete's reveal of her condition is part of a recent pattern of her being more open about her life.

"Lately, I've been really talking more about different things that I've encountered in my life. And through my book, I feel like I've gotten so much good feedback, positive feedback," Vonn said.

Back in January, Vonn joined TODAY to discuss her memoir, “Rise — My Story,” and opened up about her decadeslong battle with depression and the difficulty of retiring from the sport she loves.

"Skiing was the one thing that could make me happy, my escape. …Retiring was so hard for me because I no longer had that crutch to lean on," Vonn said on TODAY with Hoda & Jenna.

Vonn announced her retirement from ski racing in 2019 following a crash in the women's Super-G and several injuries. Last month, Vonn was inducted into the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame, where she honored to her mother Linda Krohn, who suffers from Lou Gehrig's disease or ALS. "She's struggling, but my family is amazing ... we're doing the best that we can," Vonn said.

After a "slight breakup" with skiing for about a year, Vonn told Craig she is back on the slopes. "I needed some away time, but we reconciled. We're very happy now," she said.

What is insomnia?

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder that can make it difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep, or go back to sleep after waking up, according to Mayo Clinic. People with insomnia may not get enough sleep or have poor sleep quality, which can impact daytime functioning.

In addition to sleep disturbances, symptoms of insomnia include excessive daytime sleepiness, irritability, difficulty focusing, impaired work performance, and increased errors or accidents, according to Mayo Clinic.

Many adults will suffer from short-term insomnia at some point in their life, which can last for a few days or weeks, according to Mayo Clinic. This may be caused by stress, a traumatic event, or environmental factors, like traveling or a new living situation.

Long-term or chronic insomnia occurs three or more nights a week for more than 3 months and can't be fully explained by another medical problem, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Insomnia may be a primary problem or it can be associated with medications and health conditions, according to the Mayo Clinic. Other common causes include anxiety disorders, poor sleep habits, alcohol or caffeine use, and aging.

Treatment may involve cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I), lifestyle changes, or medication, according to Mayo Clinic. If you have insomnia, try these tips to get a good night of sleep.

"I think insomnia is something that so many people struggle with ... for me, it was important to share this and help others in the process," Vonn said.