What causes insomnia?

Insomnia is essentially when you can’t get to sleep, or when you do eventually nod off you struggle to stay asleep. This results in sleep deprivation, or where your sleep is non-restorative or unrefreshing.

The vast majority of us will experience temporary insomnia at some points in our lives. It’s usually short lived, lasting only a few days, and tends to go away on its own. This is especially true if it’s down to something like jet lag, stress, work worries or emotional distress like bereavement. Other times insomnia can be trickier to shift, especially if it’s down to a more chronic physical or mental issue.

Depression, stress and anxiety are some of the most common longer term causes of insomnia. Psychological and emotional issues such as worry, anger, bipolar disorder, grief and trauma will also make insomnia worse, and only by resolving these problems will you help to cure your insomnia.

Physical health problems can also trigger or exacerbate insomnia. These could include chronic pain, allergies, asthma, hyperthyroidism, acid reflux, cancer, kidney disease and digestive problems to name just a few. Additionally, the medications required to treat these issues can have their own side effects, one of which can be disturbed sleep. For instance, some pain relievers contain caffeine (a known stimulant) whilst diuretics and certain slimming pills can have you up and down to the loo all night; not conducive to restful sleep! If this sounds like you, it’s well worth having a chat with your doctor to find a solution as sleep is vital in maintaining the best physical and mental health possible.

Whilst we’re on the topic of physical health, don’t forget that insomnia itself can be the symptom of other sleep disorders. These can include restless legs syndrome and sleep apnea as well as disturbances in your circadian rhythm due to shift work or jet lag.

Finally, take an honest look at your daily habits to discover if any bad ones have crept in that might be making your insomnia worse. For instance, perhaps you’re using alcohol before bed to help you nod off, which in fact only disrupts sleep longer term. Or maybe you need to reduce the amount of caffeinated drinks you consume during the course of the day. Additionally, if you love an afternoon nap, check that you’re not snoozing too often or for too long. Avoid large or sugary meals late in the evening, and make sure you get enough exercise too.

Once you’ve made some positive changes to your daily habits you should notice an improvement in your insomnia. Although habits can be hard to break, you’ll reap the rewards later on.

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