Common Insomnia Causes

What Causes Insomnia?

Did you ever wonder what the most common insomnia causes are? I know I have! I think about them every time that I'm laying in bed at 4:00 am, wondering "why is this happening to me?"

While there is an endless list of possible causes of insomnia, there are certain conditions that seem to make individuals more likely to experience it. Examples
of these causes for insomnia include:

  • Stress
  • Environmental noise
  • Extreme temperatures
  • Change in the surrounding environment
  • Sleep/wake schedule problems such as those due to jet lag
  • Medication Side Effects

There are three types of insomnia:

  • Transient (short term)
  • Intermittent (on and off)
  • Chronic (constant)

Chronic insomnia (or acute insomnia) is more complex and often results from a combination of factors, including underlying physical or mental disorders.

One of the most common causes of chronic insomnia is depression. Other underlying causes inlcude arthritis, kidney disease, heart failure, asthma, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, restless legs syndrome, Parkinson's disease, and hyperthyroidism.

However, causes of chronic insomnia may also be due to behavioral factors, including the misuse of caffeine, alcohol, or other substances; disrupted sleep/wake cycles as may occur with shift work or other nighttime activity schedules; and chronic stress.

In addition, the following behaviors have been shown to perpetuate insomnia in some people:

  • Expecting to have difficulty sleeping and worrying about it
  • Ingesting excessive amounts of caffeine
  • Drinking alcohol before bedtime
  • Smoking cigarettes before bedtime
  • Excessive napping the afternoon or evening
  • Irregular or continually disrupted sleep/wake schedules

These behaviors may prolong existing insomnia, and they can also be responsible for causing the sleeping problem in the first place. Stopping these behaviors may eliminate the insomnia altogether.

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Swanson, Jennifer. Sleep Disorders Sourcebook. Detroit, Michigan: Omnigraphics, Inc., 1999.