10 Causes of Insomnia

The causes of Insomnia are varied and sometimes hard to detect at first glance. Yet, sleep is a fundamental function of the human body that helps restore balance to an overworked nervous system, body and mind.

This is vital in maintaining your health. To better understand the causes of insomnia, it is important to first define what insomnia is.

So, What is Insomnia?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO insomnia is defined as,"a problem initiating and/or maintaining sleep or the complaint of non-restorative sleep that occurs on at least three nights in a week and is associated with daytime distress or impairment."

There are different classifications and types of insomnia, during different stages of sleep. They are:

  • Initial or Onset insomnia: The people who suffer from this are those that find it difficult to fall asleep. If you suffer from this, it takes hours to fall asleep AFTER going into bed. It is quite frustrating!
  •  Maintenance or Middle insomnia:  You are asleep, but you really aren't resting or asleep.....This condition occurs when an individual is unable to maintain sleep for a full night. They find themselves in various stages of wakefulness at all times of the night.
  • Terminal insomnia: Tired from a long day, you get into bed at say, 10. Immediately, you are asleep but by 1 a.m. you are up. Sound something like you? This type of insomnia is where a person wakes up too early and thus is unable to get a full nights’ rest.

Curiously, while there are many suggestions on the amount of sleep one needs in order to be responsive and restore balance, there aren’t any authoritative source, medically, that acutely states how many hours of sleep each individual needs.

This could be due to the subjective nature of individuals. That is if six hours works for me, it does not necessarily mean that it will work for you. You may need four or eight hours. Maybe even  more.......

The severity of insomnia can be classified into two; acute insomnia and chronic insomnia. In acute insomnia, an individual suffers from insomnia for a period of less than a month.

In most cases, it is resolved naturally. It is caused by life events and situations such as the death of a loved one, moving to a new city and being promoted in a job and so on.

On the other hand, chronic insomnia occurs when an individual is unable to sleep properly for a prolonged period. It is generally agreed that a person unable to sleep for at least three nights in a week for a period of over a month.

The longer the period the more severe the insomnia is and is offset and maintained because of psychological distress for example anxiety.

The causes of insomnia can be related or traced to different activities and habits that we undertake and have. Perhaps the most common sources of insomnia, however, are of an emotional nature, such as worry or anxiety over an existing problem, or serious grief, stress or depression.

10 Causes of Insomnia

1)      Our eating habits can contribute to cases of insomnia. Specifically, eating too late in the evening and/or not eating enough which results in low blood sugar levels contribute to varrying states of insomnia. For example, eating too late has the effect of producing too much energy which in turn makes sleeping difficult.

2)      The excessive intake of caffeine and caffeine related products have also been identified as a major cause of insomnia. Caffeine products found in chocolates, cola, coffee as well as tea (Yes, tea! Don't overindulge......) are the most common products. Perhaps less popular are antihistamines (including the ephedra herb) also contributes to this.

3)      Exercising is a fundamental activity in maintaining body and mind health as well as that of an emotional nature. Moreover, it also contributes greatly to the quantity of your sleep and its quality. However, exercising too late in the evening, can cause insomnia as it increases your energy levels and increases your heart rate.

4)      What do you do and what are your working hours? Changing work schedules and work shifts are one of the most disruptive to sleep patterns. A good example to illustrate this is the disorientation one feels from being jet lagged. Jet lag is a temporary response to changing sleep patterns. It is recommended to keep your schedule as regular as possible so as not to suffer from insomnia.

5)      Having long day time naps will also contribute to disrupting your sleep patterns and cause insomnia at night.

6)      Where do you sleep? That is the environment you sleep in contributes significantly to lack of sleep and insomnia.  A noisy environment or an environment that is uncomfortable for example as a result of too much light and extreme temperatures (that is too hot or too cold) contributes too insomnia. Or perhaps a snoring partner could be the cause..........

7)      Electromagnetic signals such as televisions, laptops and mobile phones in the bedroom are also being identified as major causes of insomnia. They disrupt sleep and in some cases can cause onset insomnia, middle insomnia and terminal insomnia all in one night! Switch off and put away these type of devices from the bedroom space.

8)      Other illnesses or pains or discomforts can lead to sleeplessness. These types of illnesses include emphysema, restless leg syndrome and an overactive thyroid gland which increases metabolism leads to difficulty in sleeping.

9)      Drinking too many liquids before bed has the effect of disrupting sleep particularly in the older generations as it involves having to get up to urinate. To avoid this, abstain from drinking liquids, including alcohol just before bed. While alcohol is believed to induce sleep, withdrawal symptoms such as dehydration have the effect of causing middle insomnia and terminal insomnia.

10)   The most common and most severe causes of insomnia are those of an emotional nature. It is these causes that frequently lead to chronic insomnia, which is a serious condition as it can affect our health negatively. It reduces productivity and compounds on our stress. Theses causes include anxiety over something or someone, stress over a situation and depression.

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