Chances are you’ve heard of insomnia and may even have experience with it. It’s a sleep condition where you have trouble sleeping, whether that means you have trouble falling asleep, trouble staying asleep, or experience poor sleep quality. Insomnia can lead to many negative things, some of which you maybe haven’t even considered. Of course if you’re not getting enough sleep, you’ll feel tired during the day, which can affect your performance at school or work and maybe even hinder your ability to take care of yourself or your family. But insomnia can also cause health problems because sleep is so important. Lack of sleep can contribute to a higher risk of heart conditions, depression, and even diabetes, so it’s very important to get enough sleep each night.

There are many reasons for insomnia, like schedule changes, jet lag, too much caffeine, and various health conditions. Some causes of insomnia are much less concerning than others, and if you don’t experience insomnia for long, chances are that you don’t have a serious case. However, some health conditions can be linked to insomnia for long periods of time and be a cause to call your doctor. 

What Are The Common Causes of Insomnia?

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a health condition where you stop and start breathing in your sleep. Insomnia and sleep apnea are definitely related. Naturally, this can cause insomnia because you’re disrupting your sleep, sometimes without even knowing it. If you snore, this can be related to sleep apnea as well. Sleep apnea is usually linked to poor sleep quality, making you feel tired during the day and making the night unpleasant. So if you’ve asked yourself, “can sleep apnea cause insomnia?” the answer is yes.

Anxiety

Because stress and anxiety weigh on your mind, it might make it harder for you to sleep because your brain won’t shut down and allow you to sleep. Anxiety can also make you wake up during the night or cause you to sleep fitfully.

Alzheimer’s

This condition can, unfortunately, cause insomnia in addition to the other medical concerns it brings. Because people become confused and forgetful when they have Alzheimer’s, it can cause stress at bedtime, making it more difficult to sleep. It’s also possible that the stress can affect you physically, causing you to not even be willing to get into bed.

Pain Or Itching

Intense pain or itching can also cause insomnia, which you might not have even considered. Because there’s a good chance this won’t last, it’s considered acute insomnia. Pain or itching can make it difficult to get comfortable enough to sleep soundly.

Menopause

Women experiencing menopause may have trouble sleeping due to the shift in their hormones. This shift can lead to stress, which can also add to the sleep troubles. 

Medications

A number of medications can affect your sleep, including those for cancer, depression, GERD, COPD, and many more. If you’ve started a new medication and are now experiencing sleep problems, check the side effects of the medication first. If you think your new medications are the cause of your insomnia,you can check with your doctor to see if there might be an alternative medication.

Caffeine, Drugs Or Alcohol

Caffeine, drugs, and alcohol can all contribute to poor sleep. Ingesting too much caffeine or having it too late in the day can make it hard to sleep, and drugs and alcohol can stimulate your system, also making it hard to sleep. These are fairly easy for you to control, though, so if you’re finding they’re affecting your sleep, they should be easy to cut out.

Situational Changes

Something as simple as a new bed can actually cause insomnia. If you purchase a new mattress that you’re not used to, you might have trouble sleeping for a little bit. You also could experience insomnia in an unfamiliar bed, whether you’re traveling or just moved, or maybe it’s people in the house you don’t know or weather outside. These can all affect your sleep.

Insomnia In Different Age Groups

Elderly

Elderly people commonly have trouble sleeping. It’s not necessarily that they have trouble falling asleep, but it’s generally more that they don’t have good quality sleep, which is a form of maintenance insomnia. Older adults may also be dealing with other health concerns that cause insomnia, like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. Medications that are common in elderly people are also a cause for insomnia, making older adults highly prone to sleep disorders like insomnia. 

Some of the most common causes are:

  • Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s
  • Chronic pain such as arthritis
  • Weak bladder
  • Common ailments and pains
  • Medications for conditions like arthritis, anxiety, GERD, COPD, glaucoma, high blood pressure, etc.

Teens

Sleep issues that teens face are generally less health related and more behaviorally related. However, that’s not to say that insomnia can’t be related to a health issue in teens. Situations teens are in and experiences they go through can lead to insomnia, like stress, puberty, school, and more. If your teen is having trouble sleeping, examine their daily schedule and see if that might be the problem, but don’t rule out a health problem, especially mental health. 

Some common causes of insomnia in teens are:

  • Stress and anxiety over school, sports, social situations, etc.
  • Growing pains
  • Depression
  • Excessive caffeine, drugs, or alcohol
  • Certain medications
  • An active social life
  • A feeling of overwhelm due to being a teenager
  • Excessive screen time

The Different Types of Insomnia 

Chronic insomnia

Chronic insomnia is what happens when you can’t sleep for three or more nights a week for at least a month, making it a chronic condition. Secondary chronic insomnia is more common than primary chronic insomnia. Secondary chronic insomnia is insomnia that occurs with another health concern or condition, whereas primary chronic insomnia is unexplained. Because this insomnia is a little more severe, it’s usually caused by more severe conditions, like:

  • Mental health issues like anxiety, stress, and depression
  • Chronic health concerns like diabetes, sleep apnea, and Parkinson’s
  • Stimulants like caffeine, drugs, and alcohol
  • Sleep disruptions like napping and jet lag
  • Certain medications like beta blockers and antidepressants

Acute insomnia

This is probably the most common type of insomnia and what most people encounter. It’s short-term sleep issues that don’t persist. Acute insomnia is actually so common that you may never know you’re experiencing it and might just chalk your sleeplessness up to a blip on the radar. Acute insomnia can be caused by any number of little or big things, such as:

  • Emotional distress from an event
  • Pain while trying to sleep
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Certain medications
  • New sleeping environment
  • Caffeine, drugs, or alcohol
  • Illness

Onset And Maintenance Insomnia

Though these are two different types of insomnia, they’re actually very similar and are related to each other. Onset insomnia is what happens when you have trouble falling asleep and maintenance insomnia is what happens when you have trouble staying asleep — you could possibly experience one, the other or both. If you’re experiencing both, it might be a larger cause for concern. Both of these can also be chronic if they persist. Either onset or maintenance insomnia can be caused by:

  • Sleep apnea
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Stress and anxiety (this is very common in onset insomnia)
  • Certain medications
  • Caffeine, drugs, and alcohol
  • Acid reflux

FAQs

How can I stop my insomnia?

The first and best thing you can do for insomnia is check with your doctor. Insomnia can be caused by many things and affect your health and your doctor can help determine the root cause.

What are the types of insomnia?

You might hear of several different types of insomnia, but the most common are chronic insomnia, acute insomnia, onset insomnia, and maintenance insomnia. You can also have a combination of these.

Why can’t I sleep even though I’m tired?

If you can’t sleep even though you’re tired, you might be experiencing insomnia related to a health issue or an underlying cause that’s leading to sleep disruption. Whether it’s stress, a medical issue, jet lag, or something else is up to you and your healthcare provider to decide.

What foods cause insomnia?

Foods with caffeine, nightshades, alcohol, and fermented foods can all cause issues with sleeping. This is due to stimulation or disruptions in digestion.

Final Thoughts

Insomnia is an unfortunately incredibly common sleep disorder that affects many people. Your insomnia can be caused by a number of things, like stress, medications, caffeine, or something more serious like Alzheimer’s or menopause. If you’re experiencing chronic insomnia that’s hindering your general wellness, don’t hesitate to call your healthcare provider to develop a solution that works for you.