6 Most common causes of insomnia and other sleep disorders

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The National Sleep Foundation reports 48% Americans occasionally suffer from insomnia and 22% suffer from this disorder almost every night. Women are prone to insomnia 1.3 times more than men. Senior elderly people over 65 years of age are likely to suffer from insomnia 15 times more than young adults.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours of sleep for adults; 1-2 hours more or less than the recommended range can be considered normal. But if you remain awake for nights and spend the day in a sleep mode, you need to address the issue properly.

Although it is not tough to list the most common causes of insomnia, one should have a proper assessment of his/her physical and mental conditions to validate the cause and follow subsequent remedial measures. The good news is insomnia is treatable.

Symptoms of insomnia and other related sleep disorders:

Symptoms of insomnia Before analyzing the most common causes of insomnia, you need to understand whether you are suffering from it or not. Do you?

  • Find difficulty in falling asleep?
  • Fail to sleep throughout the night regularly?
  • Wake up at night frequently?
  • Have trouble falling asleep after waking up at night?
  • Get up from the bed earlier than your usual time?
  • Feel sleepiness and tired in the daytime?
  • Experience poor concentration?
  • Suffer from irritability?
  • Experience a drop in performance?

If more than two symptoms hold true for you, then you might be suffering from some degree of insomnia and other sleep disorders.

6 Most common causes of insomnia: 

Insomnia can be triggered by a number of reasons that we explore hereunder:

1.     Medical causes:

Medical causes refer to ailments that leave the patient either in acute pain or some sort of uneasiness that create an obstacle to a peaceful sleep. Some of the disorders leading to sleeplessness are:

Gastrointestinal issues such as acid reflux:

Almost 75 % of people suffering insomnia are having Gastroesophaegal Reflux disease (GERD) where reflux of acid and food into esophagus causes heartburn further leading to coughing and choking. Your sleep gets disrupted.


Hyperthyroidism You have a hyperactive thyroid. It affects your metabolic system adversely, triggers your nervous system leading to palpitations in heart, night sweat, tremors and display of sleep anxiety syndrome. 

Nasal and sinus allergies leading to extreme discomfort:

It hampers your air drawing process through nostrils and sleep is the last thing to come.


ArthritisIt makes your joints ache and doesn’t let you have a healthy sleeping cycle. Musculoskeletal disorders like fibromyalgia can be intensely painful that does not let you sleep. 

  • Asthma, Chronic pain and lower back pain become acute and unbearable. Sufferings visit you in sleep as well leading to insomnia. 
  • Neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease can play havoc with your healthy sleep schedule.
  • Nerve issues like multiple sclerosis increase chances of getting insomnia three folds leading to poor quality sleep as well as intermittent sleep disturbances. 

Respiratory issues:

Ailments like asthma, sleep apnea and related respiratory diseases can be counted among the most common causes of insomnia.

2.     Medications:

MedicationThose prescribed by your physician as an answer for remedying the above disorders may itself prompt insomnia. Specially antidepressants and medications for high blood pressure, allergy, decongestants, pain relief and weight loss can end up in giving you lesser than the quantum of sleep needed for healthy functioning of your mind and body.

3.     Depression: 

DepressionWhen psychiatric conditions shift towards a continuous melancholic state of mind, clinical depression is said to have set in leading to insomnia. The worst thing is you are caught in a vicious cycle where depression causes insomnia and in turn, sleep deprivation aggravates depression.  People suffering from depression are highly vulnerable to insomnia.

4.     Anxiety: 

Anxiety Constant worries that brew in your mind can give you insomnia. The anxiety of not meeting your deadline, fear of failure and negative apprehensions involving your personal life interferes with your sleep on regular basis.
Symptoms of anxiety resulting in insomnia count the following:

  • A gnawing tension
  • Brooding over the past.
  • Worrying about the future. 
  • A feel of being bogged down by duties and obligations. 
  • A feeling of being hypersensitive to external stimulus. 

If your mind is plagued by disturbing musings the mental equilibrium is at stake. The tranquility of the mind is lost and you are constantly niggled by distressing thoughts. Sleep anxiety is ruinous for health.  The first thing you lose is a night of dreamless slumber. 

5.     Social factors and unhealthy lifestyle:

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Unhealthy lifestyle and erratic sleep habits can induce insomnia. In fact, social connectivity using the internet is one of the most common causes of insomnia. Among others are:

  • Brief naps may not be beneficial for all as it leads to sleeplessness for many at the deep of night when sleeping really matters. 
  • Erratic sleep habits can disrupt your normal sleeping pattern. 
  • Shift workers can convert into patients of insomnia. 
  • Drug abuse can make you a victim of insomnia and later in life you may be heading towards worse health issues. 
  • Too much consumption of tobacco and caffeine may induce lack of sleep. In males in particular nicotine plays a role in loss of sleep.
  • Over eating and in particular heavy meal before bed is a strict no no if you want to achieve sound sleep. Spicy food can give you a sleepless night due to heartburn. 

6.     Makeup of our brain:


Neurotransmitters in our brain have a deep role in our sleep cycle. Chemicals present here may interact in a way that interferes with our sleep and it varies from person to person.

Insomnia in males:

It is more prominent in patriarchal society, where the male is the sole breadwinner. He has to shoulder a lot of responsibility. In the process he faces:

  • Stress for loss of job, health and money, the essential fuels to run his family. A failure will result in insomnia.
  •  Physical ailments like heart and lung disease leading to angina pain and bronchitis can lead to insomnia. 
  • Alcoholism is more in male domain leading to insomnia.

Insomnia in children and teens: 

Insomnia in childrenThis is mainly because of the fact that the biological clock inside them runs with a time lag. In children and teens, going to bed late and waking up late is typical. Hyperactive children can also suffer from insufficient sleep and may often fall asleep at wrong times of the day.

Do you need to see a doctor?

Understanding the most common causes of insomnia is important as it would help you to manage temporary sleeplessness by certain lifestyle changes. But if this doesn’t work well, you may have to go for clinical consultation if:

  • Your problem persists for more than a month without any apparent reason.
  • Your sleep pattern gets noticed by your family members that you snore severely or there is a pause in your breathing. You may be suffering from sleep apnea.
  • Any mishap or unwanted event may have disrupted your sleep pattern.
  • Your sleep medication is no more effective if you have been taking it for a considerable period.

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