Causes of Insomnia and Sleep Disorders

Causes of Insomnia and Sleep Disorders:

The causes of acute insomnia can be due to any life stresses such as the loss of a job or a change of job requiring new circumstances and/or a change of duties and new fellow employees/new boss to deal with. It could also be caused by illness (yours or a loved one) or death of a loved one, a divorce, or even having to move, which can be quite stressful.


Keep in mind, also, that any type of physical or emotional discomfort can bring on acute insomnia.


What illnesses or medical conditions contribute to insomnia?


Certain illnesses or medical conditions contribute to insomnia. Some are mild and some are more serious. There are instances in which there is an underlying medical condition that is directly the cause of insomnia, while in other instances it is the symptoms of a certain condition that cause discomfort leading to difficulty sleeping.


Medical conditions that can be directly responsible for insomnia include:


ü Allergies affecting the sinus or nasal passages

ü Bronchial or lung issues affecting breathing, such as asthma

ü GI problems including acid reflux

ü Endocrine-related problems; for example, hyperthyroidism

ü Any chronic pain/low back pain

ü Neurological illness such as Parkinson’s

ü Arthritis



If an underlying condition is the cause of the insomnia, then the insomnia is a symptom of that condition. An example of this is a neurological affliction known as restless legs syndrome. When this condition occurs, the person suffers an overwhelming, and sometimes uncontrollable urge to move the legs, occurring most often when lying down to rest.


Another sleep disorder that is linked to insomnia is sleep apnea. In this condition, the sufferer’s airway becomes totally or partially or blocked while he or she is asleep. Loud and frequent snoring characterizes this potentially serious problem.


The breathing stops and starts repeatedly, causing oxygen levels drop. The person wakes up sometimes hundreds of times during the night, for brief periods that can last from 10 to 20 seconds, and this occurs repeatedly all during the night.


Normal sleep rhythms are disrupted, causing the sufferer to experience mostly light sleep during the night and lose out on the deep, restful sleep that is needed to be mentally clearheaded and productive during the day..


What factors can be influential in chronic insomnia?


Chronic insomnia can be caused or influenced by anxiety or depression, any type of chronic stress, and of course, any pain or discomforts that you may be experiencing when you go to bed.


The symptoms of depression include lack of motivation, loss of interest in activities that previously held interest, low energy levels, and feelings of hopelessness and sadness. There is a definite link between depression and insomnia:  sleep difficulties can be symptomatic of depression and patients that have severe disorders of depression are at risk for major bouts of insomnia. Either can make the other condition worse, but fortunately, both are treatable.


Struggling with other psychological issues can also affect sleep patterns. Lack of sleep can cause changes in hormone levels, which can affect changes in mood. Hormonal changes and the accompanying physiology changes that go with it can bring on both sleep difficulties and psychiatric problems simultaneously.


Sleep issues can, of course, be affected by temporary bouts of nervousness or worry, but some people develop an ongoing pattern of various tensions and anxieties that can develop into a chronic case of insomnia. These symptoms of recurring anxieties include:


ü Dwelling on past events that can keep one up at night

ü Fretting obsessively about possible future events

ü Feeling consumed by responsibilities that seem overwhelming

ü Feeling “hyper” or over-stimulated and unable to relax the mind and body


It’s easy to understand how these general anxieties can bring on sleep problems, whether it’s trouble attaining sleep initially (onset insomnia) or inability to get back to sleep once awakened (maintenance insomnia).


The quiet hours of nighttime, lying in bed with no way to turn off an active mind can lead to distressing thoughts and fears that might make falling sleep seem virtually hopeless. If this goes on for many nights or months, the thought of wrestling with another sleepless, anxious night can instill feelings of dread. Thus, anxiety and insomnia feed each other back and forth in a viscous circle.


If this is the case, treatment may be warranted, with cognitive and/or mind-body applications that can settle the anxious person’s mind so that good sleep is possible.


There may also be lifestyle habits or behaviors that trigger insomnia. Such behaviors can create insomnia without any underlying medical/psychiatric issue, or they can make underlying issues worse.


Some examples of certain habits or lifestyle patterns that can bring on insomnia:


Doing evening computer work at home. This can set up a situation where it is hard to wind down and the mind will be preoccupied when sleep time arrives. Light from a computer or TV screen at night tends to upset the brain’s natural sleep/wake rhythms, keeping a person from winding down to prepare for sleep.


Taking daytime naps. For some people, napping during the day can interfere with falling asleep at bedtime.


Irregular sleep patterns, such as attempting to “catch up” on lost sleep by sleeping late the next day. This confuses the body’s internal clock and may create difficulty falling asleep the next night.


Working irregular hours as with shift work. Again, the body’s internal clock can get messed up, as many shift workers try to sleep during the day or make adjustments to a periodically changing schedule, which can really throw off the internal body clock.


Often an acute, temporary situation of sleeplessness turns into a chronic problem.  Say for example, some bad news causes a person to lose one or two nights of sleep. To compensate, the person gets into some unhealthy patterns that keep him up, such as downing alcohol prior to bedtime, or perhaps waking up to work after sleeping for a while.


This can perpetuate the pattern of insomnia and lead to a more serious situation where the insomnia starts to become chronic.  Soon the person starts to associate bedtime with worries that he’ll never be able to get back to sleep, and the pattern begins to reinforce itself.


For this reason, especially when a lifestyle pattern of unhealthy sleep practices starts to get inserted into one’s routine, it is important to deal with the insomnia issues before they become an ingrained habit.

For cures and detailed causes of insomnia and other sleep disorders, click on the link.

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