While there are more than 90 different types of sleep disorders that could be potentially responsible for affecting people’s sleep, insomnia continues to be the most prevalent. Today, we’ll be discussing what causes insomnia, and a few tips for dealing with it.
Deep sleep has become a prized commodity. The CDC recommends at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep every 24 hours for most adults. Work, school, parenting, and everyday errands make meeting that sleep quota difficult for most.
While many people struggle to get enough sleep due to busy schedules, others are affected by sleep disorders. Statistically speaking, estimates suggest that 50 to 70 million people in the United States suffer from a “disorder of sleep and wakefulness.”
Afflicting over 30% of the 70 million American adult population with a sleeping disorder, insomnia is prevalent.
Insomnia is a sleep disorder, characterized by an individual’s inability to sleep and stay asleep throughout the night. It also includes waking up too early and being unable to fall back asleep. This results in non-restorative sleep that takes a toll on the person’s mood, mental wellbeing, and ability to function normally throughout the day.
Persistent, chronic insomnia can often lead to physical health problems over time. For example, it increases the risk of certain conditions including blood pressure, diabetes, coronary heart disease, and cancer.
Common symptoms of insomnia include:
- Difficulty in falling asleep
- Waking up in the middle of the night or too early in the morning
- Feeling fatigued even after a night’s sleep
- Daytime tiredness (40% of people with a sleeping disorder report falling asleep accidentally during the day while 5% report falling asleep while operating a vehicle.)
- Inability to focus
- Memory problems
- Frequent errors or accidents
- Lack of motivation
- Lack of energy or lethargy
- Mood disturbances
Insomnia can have an impact on other aspects of your life including your performance at work and school, cognitive functionality, concentration, decision-making skills, etc. A 2011 study showed that in the U.S, $63 billion dollars are lost in the workplace because of lowered workplace performance due to insomnia. The effects of insomnia may even have repercussions on your personal relationships.
Approximately 30% to 35% of adults in the United States experience brief symptoms of insomnia. In fact, the American Psychiatry Association or the APA states that one out of three American adults reports symptoms of insomnia. About 6% to 10% experience symptoms at a severity that can lead to an official diagnosis for insomnia.
Another study reports that at least 25% of people in the U.S. experience acute insomnia every year. While 75% of those with acute insomnia recover, over 21% remain poor sleepers and 6% go on to develop chronic insomnia.
The stats mentioned above bring to light the realization that insomnia is not ubiquitous. While some people deal with it infrequently and for short periods, others have a more persistent or chronic type of insomnia.
The types of insomnia are classified based on the duration it lasts, cause, or severity.
- Based on duration, acute insomnia is transient and lasts for a short time while chronic insomnia can last for months or even years. Chronic insomnia occurs when a person is unable to sleep or has difficulty sleeping for three or more days a week over the course of three months. According to the American Sleep Association (APA), around 30% of people with a sleeping disorder have short-term insomnia while 10% have chronic or long-lasting insomnia.
- Based on causes, primary insomnia is the issue of sleeplessness itself while secondary insomnia is a result of another underlying disorder or health issue.
- Based on severity
- Mild insomnia can be characterized as a lack of sleep that results in tiredness
- Moderate insomnia affects daily functioning and wellbeing
- Severe insomnia can disrupt cognitive function, negatively affecting the person’s quality of life
- Risk Factors for Insomnia
Before we discuss the causes of insomnia, it’s important to address the risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing it.
Age & Gender
Generally, insomnia can occur regardless of age, as 30% of children with poor sleeping habits develop behavioural insomnia. However, your chances of experiencing insomnia increase as you grow older.
In regards to gender, women are more likely to develop insomnia than men. Often, discomfort due to hormonal changes during menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause can lead to the development of insomnia.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute or (NHLBI) considers lower income, a sedentary lifestyle, disturbed sleep cycles, emotional disorders, and stress as risk factors for developing insomnia.
Sleep Cycle Disruption
Adjustment insomnia affects around 20% of people every year due to long work hours, night shifts, noise or light disturbing the sleep-wake cycle, travelling through different time zones (jet lag), or uncomfortable temperatures.
Not engaging in enough physical activity prevents your body from getting tired enough to put you to sleep. Lifestyle habits such as drug and alcohol use, smoking, caffeine consumption, watching TV, using electronic devices at night, and napping during the day are what causes insomnia among other things.
Stress, Anxiety, and Other Mental Health Problems
APA reports that 3% of the population with insomnia experiences it due to mental health conditions such as stress, anxiety, drug withdrawals, substance abuse or prescription abuse. Psychophysiological insomnia affects 2% of the total population, especially people with anxiety and/or stress caused by work, relationships, friendships, etc.
What Causes Insomnia?
A study discussing the prevalence, etiology, and consequences of insomnia states hyper-arousal stimulated by activities, circumstances, and other risk factors as causes of insomnia. . The state of hyper-arousal can be mental, physical, or both.
Hyper-arousal stems from a variety of causes and factors, which may further trigger or worsen other mental and physical health conditions. Let’s take a closer look at some of the leading causes of insomnia.
Mental Health Disorders
Mental health disorders are often accompanied by insomnia or sleep-related issues. For instance, 80% of people with depression experience daytime sleepiness and insomnia. Another statistic in an article in the MSD Manual suggests that 40% of people with chronic insomnia also have a mental health disorder.
Associated mental health disorders include major depression, anxiety disorder, and bipolar disorder.
In some cases, insomnia is caused by mental health disorders. Insomnia can also worsen mental health issues. Insomnia and mental health issues can turn into a vicious cycle with one feeding the other.
Such disorders lead to pervasive negative thoughts that cause negative mental hyper-arousal, which may keep you up at night for hours. This disturbs sleep and can cause insomnia (on-set or maintenance).
According to the American Psychological Association’s Stress in America ™ 2020 report, two out of three people experienced some form of stress in daily life throughout 2020 due to COVID-19. This meant that 60% of the American population experienced psychological stress as a result of pandemic-related uncertainty.
Stress is a prevalent problem among the American population, whether it is caused by a traumatic situation or economic concerns.
Psychological stress often leads to interrupted sleep cycles. As the body experiences stress, hyper-arousal prevents you from sleeping. What causes insomnia may be attributed to psychological stress in some situations. If left unaddressed, stress-induced insomnia causes further stress, which creates even more sleep issues. In short, stress can lead to an unbreakable insomnia-sleep cycle where you might wake up at the same time in the middle of the night, unable to fall back asleep.
Physical Health Issues
In addition to mental health disorders and illnesses, physical health concerns such as chronic pain can disturb sleep cycles and cause insomnia. Pain not only makes it difficult to lie comfortably in bed, but it also causes psychological stress. This added stress further exacerbates the problem, resulting in disrupted sleep-wake cycles.
Other physical illnesses such as diabetes, pain caused by peripheral neuropathy (damage in the nerves outside of the brain and spinal cord), blood sugar irregularities, frequent urination, respiratory problems, and nervous system conditions. can lead to the development of insomnia.
Neurological issues such as neurodegenerative and neurodevelopmental problems are considered causes of insomnia.
Conditions such as dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) can throw off circadian rhythms. These conditions can worsen sleep quality and can lead to the development of insomnia. Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder also deal with sleeping disorders, which can persist into adulthood.
In some instances, medication might be the reason you experience insomnia or other sleeping disorders. Medication for Blood pressure, asthma, and depression can cause sleep problems. Furthermore, when the medication is stopped, withdrawal symptoms can cause reactions in the body that may prevent you from falling asleep.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which causes pauses in breath and temporary sleep interruptions, can be a cause of insomnia. Research suggests that over 22 million Americans are affected by OSA, which can cause sleep disorders.
Other sleep-related problems such as restless leg syndrome and parasomnias such as sleep paralysis and sleepwalking can also be an underlying cause for insomnia.
Irregular Sleep Schedules
Irregular sleep schedules disrupt the circadian rhythm, which follows the earth’s movement around the sun i.e. day and night. When the sun comes up, circadian rhythms direct the brain to wake up. When the sun goes down, it tells it to become sleepy.
Jet lag, working the night shift or simply staying awake past your normal bedtime can disturb your circadian rhythm. This increases the instances of acute insomnia, which may eventually become more persistent..
The use of electronic devices, working overtime, playing video games, taking naps during the day, and sleeping in until midday lead to Irregular sleep schedules and can throw off your circadian rhythm.
Diet also has a significant impact on your sleep. Caffeine, nicotine and alcohol are the culprits to blame for short-term insomnia. Heavy or spicy meals at night can cause digestive distress which may lead to insomnia and daytime sleepiness.
Insomnia during Pregnancy
During pregnancy, anatomical, hormonal, and physiological changes can affect sleeping patterns. For example, an Enlarged abdomen, sore breasts, swollen ankles, and increased pressure on the lower back can cause discomfort while lying down.
Further bodily changes such as nausea, disturbed breathing, pressure on internal organs, increased need to urinate (nocturia), sciatica, acid reflux, restless leg syndrome, etc. can cause insomnia during pregnancy.
Insomnia & Childhood
Insomnia is a growing problem among children and teenagers. A study estimated that up to 23.8% of teenagers experience some level of insomnia. Natural biological changes, staying up late to study, playing video games, or using social media are to blame for insomnia among teenagers.
Overscheduling, work-related stress,school-related stress, excessive caffeine intake, drug use, anxiety, depression, and a busy social life can contribute to teenage insomnia.
Dealing with Insomnia
If you are experiencing insomnia, it’s imperative that you take the necessary measures to improve your sleeping? habits. Learn some relaxation techniques and integrate them into your routine as a remedy for insomnia.
Consult a physician or sleep expert if the problem persists. Neglecting to do so may cause major disruptions that may negatively impact your health and lower your quality of life.
Counselling, cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), prescription medication, melatonin, and sleep aids (over-the-counter). are a few examples of treatments for insomnia.
Despite treatments being available, you’re better off taking preventative measures. As the Dutch philosopher, Desiderius Erasmus, wrote, “prevention is better than cure.”
Making the following changes can help prevent insomnia:
- Going to bed early
- Associating your bedroom only to sleep
- Avoiding the use of electronic devices before bed
- Blocking light in the room
- Establishing an evening routine
Switching to a healthy diet, non-smoking, reducing caffeine and alcohol intake, and engaging in relaxation techniques can facilitate improved sleep. Lastly, your mattress could very well be the reason you can’t sleep.
If you’re dealing with acute insomnia, switching to a natural latex mattress may be a solution. Natural latex mattresses have many benefits that allow you to sleep in comfort. These include:
- Contouring to fit your body shape;
- Natural latex is breathable, preventing excessive sweating during the night;
- Improved motion isolation
- Reinforced edges thanks to a pocketed coil layer
- No off-gassing as natural latex foam is free of VOCs (volatile organic compounds)
Whether it’s an all latex natural mattress or hybrid (latex foam + spring coils) mattress you prefer, there are plenty of options for natural latex mattresses. To find a solution befitting your sleeping needs and preferred sleeping position go to, www.naturalmattressfinder.com
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