Causes of Insomnia – What People Need to Know

An estimated one third of individuals experience insomnia sometime during their lives. Even over a short period of time, the inability to get a good night’s sleep can compromise health and well-being.

Difficulty falling asleep – and staying asleep – can be a short-term issue or develop into a serious, chronic condition. In both cases, it is important to consult with a healthcare provider to determine the cause and identify remedies to pursue. The following are some of the causes of sleeplessness.

Causes of SHORT-TERM Insomnia

Short term insomnia, also referred to as transient insomnia, may appear quickly as a result of stress-inducing factors and major life events, such as the death of a loved one, divorce or a relocation. Sleep issues may last anywhere between one day and one month. Even brief circumstances that cause concern, including taking tests, making a presentation, or traveling can promote the onset of insomnia. Yet, short-term sleeplessness may also be caused by an acute illness such as the flu, bronchitis, or migraine headaches.

Here are some of the factors that may drive symptoms of short-term insomnia.

  • Psychological Causes: Psychological conditions such as anxiety and depression can cause periods of sleeplessness and fatigue.
  • Physical Causes: Acute illnesses, surgery, or injuries that cause pain and discomfort are linked to insomnia. Often the medications that are used to treat these health problems can exacerbate insomnia symptoms.
  • Work Scheduling: Working the night shift, extra-long work hours, or alternating shifts in different day parts can increase the risk of insomnia.
  • Travel: Traveling through different time zones disrupts a person’s natural biological rhythms, which impacts the ability to sleep. For shorter trips that traverse one or two time zones, the body can usually adapt within a couple of days. Yet, when traveling across several time zones, it can take up to a week before the body adjusts to a new sleep schedule.
  • Diet and Nutrition: Many foods and drinks that can get in the way of a good night’s rest. Spicy dishes, heavy meals, sugary items, high-fat and fried foods, smoked meats, soy products, and beverages with caffeine and alcohol can inhibit an individual’s ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.
  • Gender: Women are twice as likely to suffer from insomnia than men. Although, after menopause the gap closes.
  • Age: Sleeping patterns alter as people get older and experience more health issues. The quality of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep is believed to decrease with age. As a result, an individual’s sleep is less restorative, lighter, and more prone to night-time awakening.

Causes of CHRONIC Insomnia

Transient insomnia can easily turn into a case of chronic insomnia if left untreated. In addition, the following factors can cause chronic sleep problems and deprivation.

  • Chronic Health Conditions: Health conditions that can contribute to insomnia include arthritis, asthma, heart problems, acid reflux disease, restless legs syndrome, fibromyalgia, high blood pressure, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), as well as diseases such as Alzheimers and Parkinsons. Chronic anxiety or depression can also lead to sleeplessness.
  • Persistent Pain: Ongoing pain and discomfort associated with chronic and severe illnesses often contribute to long-term sleep loss.
  • Family history: Research demonstrates that genetics may play a role with regard to sleep issues. Restless legs syndrome, sleep walking, sleep talking, and other sleep problems can run in families.

As with many health conditions, there may be a number of factors that contribute to the onset of insomnia. If anyone is experiencing insomnia or other sleep issues, talk with a doctor right away.

Melissa Thompson
Melissa Thompson writes about a wide range of topics, revealing interesting things we didn't know before. She is a freelance USA Today producer, and a Technorati contributor.