If you are having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, you may have insomnia, an extremely common sleep disorder. But what causes insomnia? Insomnia causes are varied, and can include everything from jet lag or a snoring bed partner to health problems and medication.
Insomnia is a widespread disorder. Over one third of adults experience insomnia at some point in their lives, according to insomnia statistics provided by the Mayo Clinic (2009), and 10 to 15 percent of adults suffer from chronic insomnia.
Age and Insomnia Causes
Aging often results in less restful sleep. Many health conditions that are causes of insomnia become more common with age.
Women entering menopause often develop insomnia. Hot flashes can wake women up at night, disrupting sleep.
Men may develop an enlarged prostate as they age. This can result in frequent urination at night, which also disrupts sleep.
Pregnancy, Insomnia and Sleep
Insomnia is a common complaint during pregnancy. Insomnia causes during pregnancy include hormonal fluctuations and increased nighttime urination. Sleep-disrupting heartburn and leg cramps are also common during pregnancy.
Discomfort may be another cause of insomnia during pregnancy. In addition, pregnant women who are anxious or stressed are prone to insomnia.
Health Conditions and Causes of Insomnia
Insomnia causes may also include physical conditions. Health conditions that may cause insomnia include:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
- Lung disease
- Parkinson’s disease.
Mental Health and Insomnia
Depression and anxiety are associated with insomnia â€” insomnia is a common symptom of depression. Determining whether depression causes insomnia or whether pre-existing insomnia led to the depression can be challenging. If insomnia causes depression, treating the underlying sleep disorder can relieve symptoms of depression. Otherwise, treating the depression usually relieves the insomnia.
If you have schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, you may also be at risk for insomnia.
Substance Abuse and Insomnia
Substance abuse is another cause of insomnia symptoms. Stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine can cause insomnia, especially if used in the hours before sleep.
Though it is a sedative, and initially makes people drowsy, alcohol also prevents people from falling into deeper, more restful stages of sleep, and can cause nighttime wakening. Insomnia is common in chronic alcoholics.
Lifestyle and Causes of Insomnia
Lifestyle factors, a person’s environment and disruptions to normal schedules can lead to insomnia. Factors that can contribute to insomnia include:
- Changes in altitude
- Eating late in the evening
- Jet lag
- Night-shift work
- Snoring bed partner
Medication and Insomnia
Insomnia causes can also include medications. Over-the-counter and prescription drugs that may cause insomnia include:
- Allergy drugs
- High blood pressure medications
- Weight-loss drugs.
Sleep disorders, by their very nature, disrupt normal sleeping habits. People suffering from sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome or periodic limb movement disorder, often have insomnia.
Mayo Clinic. (2009). Insomnia. Retrieved August 31, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/insomnia/DS00187.
Nabili, S.T. (2008). Insomnia. Retrieved August 10, 2010, from http://www.emedicinehealth.com/insomnia/article_em.htm.
What to Expect Foundation. (2010). Pregnancy symptoms and solutions. Retrieved August 31, 2010, from http://www.whattoexpect.com/pregnancy/symptoms-and-solutions/insomnia.aspx.