Causes of Insomnia

Causes of Insomnia - Man counting sheep trying to get to sleep

Stress and anxiety is the cause of insomnia for most sufferers of insomnia.

Primary Insomnia

For most sufferers of insomnia, their sleep difficulties are caused by stress and anxiety. Constant worries about finances, together with the pressure to work longer and harder than ever before are some of the reasons that many people are finding it increasingly difficult to unwind at the end of the day.

Whilst the occasional night’s difficulty in getting to sleep can be annoying, it is only when the problem occurs for a succession of nights that the effects can become really debilitating.  This, in turn, can lead to difficulties in concentration, memory loss and poor decision making …. as well as a host of health problems. 

Stress related insomnia has been blamed for a sharp rise in the number of people being given prescription drugs … drugs designed to help them get to sleep. Such drugs can become addictive. For this reason, GPs are becoming increasingly reluctant to prescribe drugs for long periods of use. 

However, stress is not the only cause of insomnia.  Although stress is a major factor in the equation, there are also many other causes that can underlie difficulty in sleeping. These factors are known as secondary insomnia. 

Secondary Insomnia

Secondary insomnia occurs when the sufferer’s sleeping problems are the result of other health problems.   Such problems may be caused by emotional, neurological or other health disorders. 

Emotional causes of insomnia include: anxiety, depression and post traumatic syndrome as well as neurological causes such as Alzheimers and Parkinsons diseases.

However, many other health conditions can contribute to symptoms of insomnia.  These include:

  • The pain of arthritis
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Sleep apnea
  • Overactive thyroid 
  • Menopausal conditions
  • The late stages of Pregnancy causing discomfort
  • Urinary conditions causing the sufferer to wake up to pass water
  • Asthma and heart failure where the patient has difficulty in breathing

Certain types of prescription medicines and recreational drugs can also lead to symptoms of insomnia.  These include:

  • Beta blockers such as Propranolol and Atenolol
  • Clonidine used to treat high blood pressure
  • Antidepressants such as Prozac and Citalopram
  • Corticosteroids for treating asthma and inflammatory conditions such as Arthritis
  • Statins such as Simvastatin and Atorvastatin
  • Decogestants such as Ephedrine
  • Stimulants such as Ritalin
  • Weight loss products that contain caffeine and other stimulants
  • Amphetamines
  • Metamphetamines
  • Cocaine
  • Nicotine
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol

In addition to these, the withdrawal of many medications can also lead to insomnia.  Even the withdrawal of coffee can have a “sleep rebound” effect, where the stages of Orthodox and REM sleep can take many weeks to return to a normal pattern. 

Where medications seem to be contributing to symptoms of insomnia, it is advisable to discuss the problem with your medical doctor who may be able to prescribe an alternative medicine with less side effects. 

Understanding the reasons underlying your insomnia can be the first step in finding a solution for overcoming your symptoms and improving the quantity and quality of your sleep. 

For further information on the treatments and remedies for insomnia see our articles.


Insomnia cures

What is Insomnia

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