Insomnia is an incredibly common condition that many adults will face at some point in their lifetimes. According to the National Institutes of Health, as much as 30% of adults experience insomnia. In order to understand your own risk for insomnia, you first need to understand what causes it.
What Causes Insomnia?
Insomnia is a complex condition. Namely, it can be both a symptom of other medical conditions as well as a problem in its own right. This condition has a wide range of causes, including everything from diet to severe medical problems.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common causes and risk factors for this condition…
10. Sleep Environment
How you sleep plays a significant role in your risk for insomnia. Your sleep environment includes everything from the physical location of your bed to things like temperature, sound, and other factors that can interrupt sleep.
Why Our Sleep Environment Triggers Insomnia
Our sleep environments are important parts of how we fall asleep and maintain our sleep throughout the night. Abrupt changes in temperature, lighting, and sound can lead to restless sleep. Other factors come into play, including personal preferences like the firmness of your bedding. Working towards an ideal sleep environment for you is the key to avoiding this insomnia risk factor.
Another risk factor comes from our careers…
9. Working the Night Shift
Working night shifts is another leading risk factor for insomnia. When work is keeping you going well past your natural bedtime, you can start to experience interruptions in your sleep. It’s important to point out that this covers both jobs that run late into the night and those that start very early in the morning.
Why Working the Night Shift Causes Insomnia
Our bodies have a natural internal clock known as our circadian rhythm. This rhythm is the recurring timeframe that our bodies use to send signals to tell us when to wake up and be alert or when to fall asleep. Working late into the night forces this rhythm off balance. This fact is why so many third-shift workers experience dangerous conditions like falling asleep on the job or being chronically tired.
Another work-related cause of insomnia is traveling…
If you’ve ever been on a long flight, then you’ve probably experienced jet lag. This condition is caused by the body being unable to adjust to a new day and night cycle as quickly as it has traveled. Jet lag usually fades in a few days as the body adjusts to the new time zone.
Why Travel Causes Insomnia
Our bodies set their internal clocks based on our locations. Specifically, the natural rhythm of the sun rising and setting determines the daily course of much of our biological activities. Jet lag, however, forces an abrupt change to that rhythm to which the body has problems adjusting.
Jet lag isn’t always work related; it can also be caused by lifestyle choices…
7. Lifestyle Choices
How we live our lives can also impact our risk of developing insomnia. Simply put, there are countless factors that contribute to how our lifestyles affect our sleep patterns. These factors include diet, exercise, and other habits like smoking.
Why Lifestyle Choices Cause Insomnia
Each aspect of our lifestyle can affect our sleep. Working out too close to bed is a classic example. The body naturally unwinds as it gets closer to nightfall. Working out, using smartphones, or eating right before bed can confuse the body’s natural rhythm. If you’re experiencing insomnia, think about the activities you do right before bed and how they can contribute to this problem.
One of the most common lifestyle causes of insomnia is drinking too much caffeine…
Caffeine is the most commonly used psychoactive substance in the world. While this potent drug gives millions of people the boost they need during the day, at night it can often lead people to experience insomnia.
Why Caffeine Causes Insomnia
There is one major misconception about caffeine: that it gives you energy. This substance doesn’t actually give you energy. Instead, it blocks neurochemicals that signal fatigue. So, when you drink caffeine too close to your normal bedtime, you can accidentally give yourself an energy boost right before you are trying to sleep. The effect of caffeine can last for hours, so even early afternoon or evening caffeine can be enough to disrupt sleep.
When we head to bed, we need to make sure we aren’t doing other things to trick our bodies into staying awake…
5. Working in Bed
Our bodies associate places with activities. If you’ve ever felt pumped on your way to the gym, then you know this feeling. When we get into bed for activities other than sleeping, we can disrupt our sleep patterns.
Why Working in Bed Causes Insomnia
Many of us work in bed or engage in other distracting activities like scrolling through social media. These activities stimulate the brain and trick it into thinking that it’s time to be awake. In other words, the brain will associate the brain less with sleep and instead on waking activities. Activities like reading or listening to calming music can replace working in bed and help people overcome this risk factor.
Another cause tied into working in bed is stress…
There are many parts of our lives that give us stress, such as work, family life, and the world at large. These stressors can have a significant impact on our ability to get to sleep at night.
Why Stress Causes Insomnia
Stress builds up nervous energy in the body. The same neurochemicals associated with stress are also connected to our fight-or-flight response, a response that makes us feel alert and energized. Lowering stress levels, especially at night, can help mitigate this sleep-disrupting risk factor.
Severe and chronic stress can be helped with medications, but some of those medicines can actually cause insomnia…
We rely on medications to help us control our health concerns. However, a wide range of medicines can also lead to insomnia. These side effects change from individual to individual, so a medicine that causes insomnia for one person might not cause it for another.
Why Medications Cause Insomnia
Medications typically have two effects on the body. The first is the intended effect, like a cough suppressant reducing a cough. Other effects are often unintended and are known as side effects. A common medicinal side effect is insomnia. This side effect can be caused by everything from hormonal medications to over-the-counter headache medications. (Please note that you should talk to your doctor before stopping a prescription medication.)
As we get older, we rely on more medications to help us throughout our days, but this also poses a higher risk for insomnia…
2. Advanced Age
Advanced age is another leading factor for insomnia. As we get older, much changes within our bodies. The bodily systems we’ve relied on for decades start to break down and can become less reliable. This creates plenty of chances for insomnia.
Why Advanced Age Causes Insomnia
Age-related insomnia can be tied to a wide range of factors, including sleeping being disrupted by medical conditions, medical treatments causing insomnia, and even the additional stress that comes with age can trigger insomnia. Additionally, our hormonal levels change as we age, which can also impact our sleep quality.
When it comes to age, it’s the physical changes to our bodies that can pose the most daunting risk for insomnia…
1. Medical Conditions
When we are feeling under the weather, it can have a direct impact on our sleep. In other words, medical conditions of all types can take a toll on our sleep.
Why Medical Conditions Causes Insomnia
Medical conditions can cause insomnia for a variety of reasons. Conditions like sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and lung disease can all make sleeping inconsistent and less comfortable. Other conditions like diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and substance abuse disorder can interfere with brain chemistry that lets us get a good night’s sleep.
So, what should you do if you are facing off against insomnia?
Insomnia is an incredibly common condition. This can be a short-term problem related to another condition like a noisy roommate or the side-effects from a medication. It can also be a chronic health problem related to how we live our lives or an ongoing health concern. If you have been experiencing insomnia, keep a diary of your sleep habits to get a better idea of your risk factors and triggers. Your doctor can help you determine what has been causing your lack of sleep and get you on the road to a good night’s rest.