Insomnia, whether short-term transient or chronic, can have a serious detrimental effect on how we perform during the day in the family unit and at work. It can leave use feeling lethargic and irritable so it’s important to understand what exactly is causing our sleeping difficulties. Below, in no particular order, are the 5 main causes of insomnia.
Stimulants, such as caffeine, are great during day to combat tiredness but taken too late in the day can seriously effect our ability to fall asleep at night. The caffeine contained in coffee, black tea, green tea and chocolate consumed after midday will still be being processed in the body by late evening.
2. Anxiety and Stress
Most of us have experienced transient insomnia whilst preparing for a presentation at work or a birthday party. We find it difficult to sleep at night but we return to normal after the presentation or birthday party is over. Chronic insomnia, however, affects us over a protracted length of time and is usually the result of stress and anxiety caused by family issues, problems at work or illness.
3. Sleeping Environment
There are a number of factors that relate to the bedroom that can affect your ability to get to sleep and stay asleep:
- Bed size: Despite the fact that our average height has increased by a few inches over the last century, many of us still sleep in a standard size bed when in fact a king size is more appropriate.
- Mattress: When sleeping with a partner of differing weight, a poor quality mattress will sink and rise as a partner moves around in their sleep
- Lighting: If the lights are too bright in the bedroom, they can decrease the release of melatonin and fool your body clock into thinking it is still daytime.
- Sunlight: Thin curtains without a lining may cause the sunlight to leak into the bedroom. For some people, a pitch black environment is required in order to fall asleep.
- Noise: If the bedroom is situated near a road and your windows are not double glazed, the noise of traffic and evening revellers can be a problem.
- Temperature: If the room is too hot or cold, you may find yourself tossing and turning in your sleep.
- Bedroom distractions: Having a TV in the bedroom or taking a book or laptop to bed can impair your ability to get to sleep because your mind associates TV, books and laptops with work or recreational ‘awake’ time activities.
4. Sleep-time Disorders
You may have no difficulty in getting to sleep on time, but studies have show that the quality of sleep is just as important as the quantity. There are a number of factors, you may not be aware of, that are affecting your quality of sleep.
Snoring affects not just the sufferer but those who are sleeping in the same room. It is usually caused by a blockage or tightening of the airway which creates vibrations as the air passes through. The following is a list of common causes of snoring:
- Obesity: Excess fat around the neck cause pressure on the airway.
- Sedatives: Alcohol and tobacco cause the throat muscles to relax and contract.
- Posture: Sleeping with more than one pillow can angle the neck sharply and constrict the throat.
Nightmares detrimentally affect the important periodic REM (Rapid Eye Movement) stages in our sleep cycle. When we ingest a sedative, such as alcohol, we prevent our brain entering the REM stages in the early parts of our sleep cycle. Towards the morning, as the sedative wears off, we enter an overactive REM stage that can induce night terrors.
Nocturnal myoclonus, or periodic leg kicking, happens in the early stages of the sleep cycle. It affects the quality of our sleep and may periodically wake us, or our partner, up.
5. Chronic Medical Condition
A medical condition can affect our sleep in two ways; either directly via the symptoms of the condition or indirectly through the medications that we are taking to alleviate the symptoms. Painful conditions such as kidney problems and arthritis affect our ability to get to sleep and silently affect the quality of our sleep during the night. For some asthma sufferers, the night-time exacerbates their problem and causes breathlessness, coughing and wheezing throughout the night.
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