Revealed: The Three Most Common Causes of Insomnia

by Martin Reed Patient Advocate

Insomnia is a common issue that plagues many people. Unlike some issues, the cause of it varies from person to person.

For the most part, insomnia is generally a secondary symptom of something else. The truth is, if there was one specific cause of insomnia, it could be easily cured and millions of people would not be suffering from it. To treat insomnia, the cause of it must be discovered so it can be dealt with effectively.

Physical conditions that can cause insomnia

Both mild and serious medical conditions can lead to insomnia. The condition itself may cause insomnia, or it may be that the condition just makes someone so uncomfortable they are unable to sleep.

Examples of medical conditions like this include:

  • Allergies* Arthritis* Asthma* Gastrointestinal problems* Fibromyalgia and other chronic pain conditions * Hyperthyroidism and other endocrine problems

Some medications (for example, those for those for cholesterol, blood pressure and depression) may also cause insomnia.

In addition to physical conditions that can cause insomnia, underlying sleep disorders such as restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea may be the culprit.

Individuals who have restless leg syndrome deal with the sensation of needing to move their legs. The symptoms of it can worsen at night and that can lead to insomnia. With sleep apnea, people must deal with their airways becoming partially or completely obstructed during slumber. This causes oxygen levels to drop and the person waking up repeatedly throughout the night.

Psychiatric conditions that can cause insomnia

Insomnia can be caused by psychiatric conditions, as well as the medications that treat these conditions. In addition to the struggles with sleep that often accompany psychological issues, adding insomnia into the mix can exacerbate the initial condition.

For instance, insomnia is often a symptom of depression. Going without sleep can worsen depression as lack of sleep can cause changes in mood and a shift in hormone levels.

In addition to psychiatric conditions, anxiety and stress can also cause insomnia. Excessive worrying, being over stimulated, feeling tense, and getting caught up in negative thoughts can make it difficult to sleep.

Behaviors that can cause insomnia

Insomnia isn’t exclusively a symptom of physical or mental medical conditions. There are lifestyle behaviors that can trigger insomnia.

Examples include:

  • Napping too late in the day* Consuming the wrong types of food and drinks* Having an irregular sleep schedule* Not having proper sleep hygiene* Working or exercising too close to bedtime* Nicotine addiction

Simple changes in these behaviors are sometimes all that is needed to get your sleep cycle back on track.

What you can do

Insomnia is not something that should be ignored. Insomnia that has lingered for more than a month generally will not go away on its own until the cause of it is found and treated.

In some cases the causes may be easy to pinpoint – such as not keeping to a regular sleep schedule, not having a sleep environment that is conducive to sleep, or you just may need to have a medication changed. Other causes of insomnia may not be so easy to pinpoint.

Don’t ignore your insomnia. Don’t think it will go away on its own. Just remember to take your insomnia seriously and talk to your doctor.

Martin is the creator of Insomnia Land’s free insomnia sleep training course. His course will help you learn how to fall asleep and how to stay asleep. Over 3,000 insomniacs have completed his course and 96 percent of graduates say they would recommend it to a friend.

Martin Reed
Meet Our Writer
Martin Reed

Martin is the creator of Insomnia Coach, an eight-week course that combines online sleep education with individual sleep coaching. His course helps clients improve their sleep so they can enjoy a better life with more energy and start each day feeling happy, healthy, rested, and refreshed. Martin also runs a free sleep training course that has helped over 5,000 insomniacs. He holds a master’s degree in health and wellness education and studied clinical sleep health at the University of Delaware.