What Causes Insomnia

Causes of insomnia. How to find out if you're struggling with insomnia.

Perhaps part of a vicious cycle, insomnia is triggered by situations that it may itself later cause, or at least aggravate. There are many possible reasons for sleeplessness; here are some of the causes:

Stress and anxiety. Concerns about work, finances, health, or family keep your mind too active and unable to relax for sleep.

Depression. This may be due to chemical imbalances in your brain or worries that accompany depression.

Stimulants. Prescription drugs, including some antidepressant, high blood pressure, and steroid medications, can interfere with sleep. Many over-the-counter medications, including some pain medication combinations, decongestants, and weight-loss products contain caffeine and other stimulants. Antihistamines may initially make you groggy, but they can worsen urinary problems - causing you to get up more during the night.

Health problems. The chronic pain of conditions like arthritis or back problems can interfere with slumber. Make sure your medical conditions are well treated so you can sleep better. Older men often develop noncancerous enlargement of the prostate gland, which can cause the need to urinate frequently, interrupting sleep. In women, hot flashes that accompany  menopause can be equally disruptive.

Change in your environment or work schedule. Traveling or working a very late or very early shift can disrupt your body's circadian rhythms, making you unable to get to sleep when you want to.

Change in activity level. Are you less physically or socially active? Activity helps promote a good night's sleep. You may also have more free time and because of that drink more caffeine or alcohol, or take a daily nap, which can all interfere with sleep at night.

Eating too much too late in the evening. Having a light snack before bedtime is fine, but anything more may cause you to feel physically uncomfortable while lying down, making it difficult to doze off. Many people also experience heartburn, a backflow of food from the stomach to the esophagus after eating.

Age.  After age 50, sleep often becomes less restful. You spend more time in stages one and two of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep and less time in stages three and four. Stage one is transitional sleep, stage two is light sleep, and stages three and four are deep (delta) sleep, which is the most restful kind. Because you're sleeping lighter, you're also more likely to wake up. With age, your internal clock often speeds up. You get tired earlier in the evening and consequently wake up earlier in the morning.


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