Causes of Insomnia
Common Causes: Insomnia or similar sleep-related symptoms need not be caused by any major disease. There are many simple causes that should be checked first. Some of the causes of sleep difficulty include:
- Over-tiredness, over-work, excessive stress, parenting stress, etc.
- Poor bedtime routine, eating too close to bedtime, and so on.
- Poor bedtime environment, noisy bedrooms, hot or cold rooms, drafts in rooms, and so on.
- Sleep routine disruptions, such as jet lag from travel, or work hour changes in shift work.
- Reduced exercise or activity (inactive lifestyle). If you don’t exercise enough, it can be harder to fall asleep.
- Anxiety. Being worried about something will keep sleep at bay.
- Emotional issues. Sadness, grief, loss, arguing at bedtime, relationship problems, divorce, and so on.
- Depressive symptoms, negative thoughts, and so on.
- Aging. The need for sleep declines with age, especially after 60. However, there are also sleep disorders that occur with age, which need to be diagnosed.
- Abnormal dreams
- Premenstrual syndrome. Some sleep difficulty in the week prior to menstruation.
- Pregnancy. Some level of insomnia and sleep difficulty is common in pregnancy.
- Shortness of breath when lying down. Patients with heart failure or similar complaints may have increased difficulty when trying to sleep horizontally reclined.
Other Physical Symptoms at Night: A number of other symptoms may occur at night, during sleep time, and interfere with a good night’s rest:
- Muscle aches. Certain types of aches may interfere with sleep. For example, posterior knee pain is troublesome.
- Pain. Any type of physical pain can cause sleep difficulty, as can pain-like sensations such as tingling, burning sensations, paresthesias, etc. The cause of the pain needs to be diagnosed.
- Indigestion (dyspepsia, abdominal pain, heartburn, esophagitis, etc.)
- Joint pain (e.g. arthritis)
- Back pain (e.g. sciatica)
- Neuropathic pain
- Dental pain (e.g. toothache, dental abscess)
- Night sweats
- Itch (Pruritus). Any type of itch, such as “itching all over” (generalized itch) can interfere with sleep.
- Night urination and Bedwetting
- Nocturnal hypoglycemia (e.g. a “diabetic hypo” occurring during sleep). May wake the person, or sometimes people do not awake, but suffer from morning headache and/or rebound hyperglycemia (“Somogyi effect”).
- Breathing difficulty when lying down (orthopnea). Some medical conditions causes shortness of breath whenever you lie flat. Sufferers tend to sleep propped up by pillows or sleep in an armchair.
- Breathing difficulty (in general). Breathing difficulty may be problematic, even if it is not worsened by lying down.
Infant and Child Sleep Conditions: The whole issue of sleep difficulty in an infant is well-known to many parents. Some common causes of a baby that won’t easily sleep include:
- Bedroom environment problem. Such as too hot, too cold, too noisy, etc.
- Baby is: hungry, thirsty, hot, cold, dirty diaper, needs burping, has fever, etc. etc.
- Over-tired baby.
- Infant colic
- Teething baby.
- Anxiety. Children can be anxious about many things.
- Separation anxiety (in toddlers or young children)
- School anxiety
- Nightmares and night terrors
- Bedwetting (or anxiety about bedwetting)
- Caffeine or other stimulant drugs. Too many coffees or caffeinated sodas can easily explain sleep problems.
- Alcohol. The use of alcohol can cause effects on sleep.
- Alcohol Withdrawal (Delirium Tremens)
- Sleeping pills. Paradoxically, the use of sleeping pills can themselves cause sleep-related problems. And withdrawal from sleeping pills, when you stop taking them, can also cause issues.
- Prescription drug side-effects. Various other medications may cause sleep-related side effects (or drug interactions).
- Amphetamine abuse.
- Cocaine abuse.
- Herbal remedy side-effect
- Chronic Insomnia
- Narcolepsy. Often causes a tendency to fall asleep during the day, rather than difficulty falling asleep.
- Sleep apnea
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea. This is a nasty disease that is often undiagnosed. A person with this disease has periods of time in sleep during which they do not breathe properly, and this leads to sleeping disruptions, along with some other very serious side effects (e.g. high blood pressure).
- Restless Legs Syndrome
- Nocturnal Myoclonus
Read more about: Sleep Disorders.
Mental and Emotional Disorders. Simple emotional and depressive symptoms can interfere with sleep. So too can the more severe disease forms of these mental health issues. Some of the emotional and mental health diseases to consider include:
- Anxiety (chronic anxiety)
- Mood Disorders
- Bipolar syndrome
- Anxiety Disorders.
- Panic disorder
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Can cause recurring thoughts that are disturbing, which can interfere with sleep.
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Serious Physical Disorders. There are some diseases that can interfere with sleep, such as to cause breathing difficulty while asleep.
- Heart Disorder (various types)
- Heart Failure (Congestive Heart Failure)
- Lung Disorder (various types)
- Thyrotoxicosis (Thyroid Disorder)
- Chronic Pain Disorders
- Liver failure. Can cause generalized itching.
- Liver cirrhosis
- General paresis
- Brain disorders
- Uremia (kidney failure)
• • •
Back to: « Insomnia
Note: This site is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. See your doctor or other qualified medical professional for all your medical needs.