What causes insomnia?
There are numerous potential causes of insomnia, and in many cases, multiple factors can be involved. Poor sleep can also trigger or worsen other health conditions, creating a complex chain of cause-and-effect for insomnia.
Insomnia and Stress
Stress can provoke a profound reaction in the body3 that poses a challenge to quality sleep. This stress response can come from work, school, and social relationships. Exposure to traumatic situations can create chronic stress, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Insomnia and Irregular Sleep Schedules
In an ideal world, the body’s internal clock, known as its circadian rhythm, closely follows the daily pattern of day and night. In reality, many people have sleep schedules that cause misalignment of their circadian rhythm.
Insomnia and Lifestyle
Unhealthy habits and routines related to lifestyle and food and drink can increase a person’s risk of insomnia.
Various lifestyle choices can bring about sleeping problems:
Keeping the brain stimulated until late in the evening, such as by working late, playing video games, or using other electronic devices.
Napping late in the afternoon can throw off your sleep timing and make it hard to fall asleep at night.
Sleeping in later to make up for lost sleep can confuse your body’s internal clock and make it difficult to establish a healthy sleep schedule.
Insomnia and Mental Health Disorders
Mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder frequently give rise to serious sleeping problems. It is estimated that 40% of people with insomnia5 have a mental health disorder.
Insomnia and Medications
Sleeping problems and insomnia can be side effects of many types of medications. Examples include blood pressure drugs, anti-asthma medications, and antidepressants. Other drugs may cause daytime drowsiness that can throw off a person’s sleep schedule.
Insomnia and Neurological Problems
Problems affecting the brain, including neurodegenerative12 and neurodevelopmental disorders, have been found to be associated with an elevated risk of insomnia.
Neurodegenerative disorders, such as dementia and Alzheimers dementia, can throw off a person’s circadian rhythm and perception of daily cues that drive the sleep-wake cycle. Nighttime confusion can further worsen sleep quality.
Insomnia and Specific Sleep Disorders
Specific sleep disorders can be a cause of insomnia. Obstructive sleep apnea, which causes numerous breathing lapses and temporary sleep interruptions, affects up to 20% of people15 and can be an underlying factor causing insomnia and daytime sleepiness.
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