CAUSES OF INSOMNIA
What is Insomnia?
Insomnia is defined as a chronic or long-term inability to sleep. We all have nights where we cannot sleep due to stress, anxiety, eating too late, or drinking too much caffeine right before bedtime. Insomnia, however, refers to a medical condition in which sleeplessness is chronic, or occurs repeatedly.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Chronic insomnia is defined when you have problems falling asleep, maintaining sleep, or experience nonrestorative sleep that occurs on a regular or frequent basis, often for no apparent reason.”
What Causes Insomnia?
Insomnia may be caused by stress, anxiety, or worrying. It may be caused by grief or anticipation of a loved ones death or end-of-life care. Insomnia may be caused by depression or SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder). It may be caused by feeling overwhelmed during the day, and the inability to “catch up.”
Many caregivers experience problems with sleep because they are overwhelmed with their caregiving responsibilities, and worried about their loved one’s well-being or condition. Caregivers of loved one’s with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia may experience sleep problems due to their loved one’s wandering at night. The caregiver may sleep lightly as they are listening for any movement in the house which may indicate that their loved one has gotten out of bed.
Other causes of insomnia may include:
How Do You Know if You Have Insomnia?
Many people know, or assume, they have insomnia simply because they cannot get to sleep at night, or spend the night tossing and turning in bed. But many people have insomnia and don’t realize it. Symptoms of insomnia include restlessness during the day; sleep deprivation, daytime fatigue, irritability, and exhaustion. Some people may experience these symptoms as a result of sleep apnea, rather than insomnia.
What is the Difference Between Sleep Apnea and Insomnia?
Sleep apnea is a condition that occurs when a sleeping person's breathing is interrupted, thus interrupting the normal sleep cycle. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), “Sleep apnea is a common disorder that can be very serious. In sleep apnea, your breathing stops or gets very shallow while you are sleeping. Each pause in breathing typically lasts 10 to 20 seconds or more. These pauses can occur 20 to 30 times or more an hour.”
The Greek word "apnea" literally means "without breath." With the obstructive form of the condition, some part of the sleeper's respiratory tract loses muscle tone and partially collapses, preventing them from breathing fully while sleeping. People who are most at risk for developing sleep apnea are those who, according to NHLBI:
There are treatments available for sleep apnea, including wearing a mask at night over your nose to constantly breathe air into your throat and prevent it from closing. Other treatments include medication or even surgery. See your healthcare professional for information about this treatment, and others, or to find out whether you may have sleep apnea.
Insomnia Risks & Effects
Insomnia can cause irritability, exhaustion, fatigue, and signs of sleep deprivation. According to the National Ag database, a part of the Centers for Disease Control, sleep deprivation can cause “Motor vehicle accidents and work accidents and decreased productivity. If this becomes a chronic problem, sleep deprivation can cause difficulties with social relationships because of irritability; as well as some significant medical problems.”
Sleep problems have also been known to cause employment-related problems, including termination as a result of missing work or the inability to be fully productive at work.
How Many People Have Insomnia?
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, approximately 60 million Americans suffer from insomnia each year.
In general, keeping your bedroom temperature moderate (not too cold or hot), making sure it is dark (close the windows and blinds), and trying to reduce anxiety and relieve stress before bedtime are effective ways to get a good night’s sleep.
It may help to read a relaxing book before bedtime, practice light Yoga, stretching, or meditation before bedtime, or drinking non-caffeinated tea such as chamomile tea.
Some people find that listening to relaxing music, can help lure them to sleep, while others find that a completely quiet room—you can even try ear plugs —can help them sleep.
The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute suggests these treatments for insomnia:
“Avoid substances such as:
Good bedtime habits include:
Prevent Insomnia by Reducing Stress
You may also find it helpful to read some of the stress-relief articles on Strength for Caring.
Some of our favorite articles for reducing stress include: