One of the most frustrating feelings is lying in bed and not being able to fall asleep. You have tried all the tricks, from counting sheep to sound machines, but nothing seems to work. But what is it that actually causes insomnia? Let’s take a look at some potential sources of your sleeplessness – and key signs that it’s time to seek professional help.
What Is Insomnia?
We’ve all had nights where we struggle to fall asleep or find ourselves waking up in the middle of the night. This can be worrisome if you’ve never experienced it for multiple nights in a row. While the occasional night of bad sleep may not be a reason to stress, a consistent inability to fall or stay asleep might warrant a conversation with your doctor.
Insomnia is characterized by difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or having good-quality sleep. If you have insomnia, you might notice that you lie awake for hours staring at the ceiling, only to be awoken from your short slumber by your alarm announcing the arrival of the next day. You go throughout your day feeling fatigued and hoping for better sleep that evening, only to have the same cycle repeat itself. Or you may fall asleep easily, but are woken up by the smallest of sounds (or by nothing at all). Regardless of what insomnia looks like for you, the feelings of exhaustion that follow can be debilitating.
Causes of Insomnia
When thinking about the causes of insomnia, there are two different categories this condition can fall into: short-term and chronic (long-term) insomnia. The catalysts for each of these are different, so let’s look at each type of insomnia individually.
Note: This is not a replacement for a medical diagnosis. If you are concerned about a potential cause for insomnia, you should consult with a medical provider.
Causes of Short-Term Insomnia
Caffeine: Caffeine is a stimulant. It can provide a much-needed boost in the afternoon if you’re feeling tired, but consuming products with caffeine late in the day can keep you awake at night. If you’re noticing you have difficulty falling asleep, take note of the tea, coffee, and energy drinks you consume. Then, cut back on caffeinated beverages within a few hours of when you need to fall asleep.
Stress: Life can bring unexpected stress which often consumes our thoughts. When you are going through periods of higher stress, you might notice it’s difficult to turn off your brain when you need to sleep. If you have a lot you are thinking about, take time to write down the things on your mind you before going to sleep.
Environmental and Lifestyle Changes: Whether it’s moving to a new place, changing relationships, or experiencing a loss, major changes can affect your ability to fall or stay asleep. Similar to the effects of stress, environmental and lifestyle shifts can feel overwhelming and keep you awake. Sometimes the best remedy for these stressors is allowing yourself time to adjust, but you can also add comfort practices, such as a familiar hobby or music, to help you wind down before bed.
Causes of Chronic Insomnia
Mental Health Conditions and Substance Use: Anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder can all affect a person’s ability to sleep. Negative and ruminating thoughts can prevent you from falling asleep successfully. Similarly, prolonged substance use impacts the body’s ability to regulate its sleep/wake cycle. While having “just one drink” before bed may be associated with drowsiness, research shows that it will reduce the quality of sleep overall. Receiving a diagnosis from a mental health professional and participating in therapy can aid in alleviating the symptoms of these mental health conditions, priming your mind for a good night’s sleep.
Physical Health Conditions: Chronic pain and neurological problems, including dementia, ADHD, and Autism Spectrum Disorder, can contribute to these issues as well. Any type of physical pain can inhibit your ability to sleep soundly if it’s not managed well, so it’s important to discuss your pain levels with your doctor. Neurological problems affect how a person processes information and can also have an impact on your sleep. These also require a medical diagnosis, and your doctor can make recommendations to improve your symptoms.
Medications: Side effects of certain medications can affect your quality of sleep, so it’s important to discuss any side effects you are experiencing with your prescriber.
Age: Older adults are more sensitive to changes and are at higher risk of health conditions that can affect sleep. Whether it’s a medication side effect due to the number of medications this age group takes or a chronic condition, older adults are highly susceptible to insomnia.
Help for Insomnia
If you’ve noticed difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep and are concerned you might have chronic insomnia, it’s important to consult with a medical professional. At Hemet Valley Recovery Center, we are well-versed in the effects of substance use and mental health on a person’s sleep and can provide medically sound support for those experiencing symptoms. If you’re looking for a greater level of support for your underlying mental health and chronic pain conditions, contact us today.