Insomnia, the inability to fall or remain asleep, is the most common sleep complaint from Americans, reports the National Sleep Foundation. It’s a sleep disorder that affects about 30 to 40 percent of American adults annually. Aptly named, “insomnia” is Latin for “no sleep.”
The average, healthy adult needs about seven to eight hours of undisturbed sleep each night. When these sleep needs aren’t met, our bodies and minds suffer. Sleep disorders such as insomnia can have multiple causes. Insomnia may affect you as a short-term disorder or as a chronic, long-term issue.
Short-term insomnia may last about three weeks, states the National Institute of Health (NIH). It can be triggered by several different factors.
Over-stimulation. Exercising too close to bedtime increases your heart rate and can cause you to experience insomnia, especially if you repeat the pattern nightly. Watching stimulating television, playing computer games or listening to energetic music may affect your ability to fall asleep. Even reading an engaging book before bedtime can affect sleep.
Environmental factors. Staying in a strange room at a hotel or even visiting friends or family can cause insomnia. Add jet lag and you could be battling sleepless nights. Your own bedroom can cause insomnia. A noisy or even noiseless bedroom can be an issue as well as a room that’s too hot or too cold.
Stress. Stress can actually be both a short-term and long-term cause of insomnia. Stress and anxiety from jobs, school, family, personal situations, loss of a loved one and financial difficulties can weigh heavy on your mind causing sleep to be elusive.
Drug or alcohol withdrawal. A physical effect of drug or alcohol withdrawal is insomnia. As the withdrawal passes, your normal sleep patterns should return.
Illness or medical conditions. Short-term hospitalization or medical conditions can cause insomnia. Even the common cold or flu can cause sleeplessness. The discomfort from minor illnesses can make it difficult to sleep.
Causes of long-term insomnia. Chronic insomnia or long-term insomnia can be caused by psychological or physical conditions, or a combination of both.
Psychological causes. The most common psychological causes of insomnia, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, are depression, anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD), bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
Physical conditions. Several physical and medical conditions can cause long-term insomnia. Acid reflux (GERD), allergies, asthma and chest pain from heart disease can affect sleep patterns. Restless legs syndrome (RLS) and chronic pain syndromes such as fibromyalgia can be factors as well. Other physical causes include sleep apnea, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and degenerative, neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Stroke patients may also experience chronic insomnia.
Medicinal causes. Certain medications can cause insomnia. Always ask your doctor if insomnia may be a side effect of any prescribed medication.