What Is Insomnia And What Causes It?


Insomnia means, succinctly put, being unable to sleep.

It is also known as sleeplessness and is one of the more prevalent medical disorders.

causes of insomnia

Though most people consider it to mean unable to sleep, it may also mean not being able to sleep for as long as one needs or sleeping without being rested.

Whatever you consider insomnia to be, one thing’s for sure: it’s no fun.

What is Insomnia?

Everyone may go through bouts of restlessness, but insomnia is more severe and is generally spread over a longer time.

Insomnia is usually divided in three different types: transient, acute and chronic.

  • When insomnia only persists for a few days or weeks, it is referred to as transient. It is most often triggered by changes in the sleep environment or due to stress or illness.
  • Acute insomnia is also known as short-term insomnia and may last for several weeks. Its most typical cause is persistent stress and may cause you to become sluggish during the daytime.
  • The last type, chronic, often appears as a symptom of a different affliction. Chronic insomnia may persist for months or years, while symptoms depend on the underlying cause.

what does insomnia mean

What Causes Insomnia?

Our sleep cycle is simple in theory but depends on a variety of circumstances to be successful. Even a small change in your environment can trigger restlessness. These causes can be divided in several categories.

  • Environment: if you travel often, you may have experienced that sleeping in a strange room doesn’t happen easily. High noise levels or any extreme temperatures may also interfere with your rest. Finding and improving problem areas in your bedroom can only be beneficial for you.
  • Hormones: our sleep is triggered by hormones produced when night falls. Things like menstruation or puberty often cause havoc in this delicate system, making it harder to fall asleep.
  • Medication and drugs: some types of medication make it harder to fall asleep, since these interfere with the previously mentioned hormones. If you often have trouble falling asleep, check with your doctor when they prescribe new medicine. Everyone knows coffee before bedtime is a bad idea, but so is alcohol. Though alcohol may make it easier to fall asleep, it also causes people to wake up in the middle of the night.
  • Medical conditions: Other sleep-related afflictions such as breathing disorders may interfere with your ability to fall asleep. Depression or excessive stress doesn’t help either and often leads to trouble falling asleep.

Being able to identify the cause of your sleeplessness can help you to take steps. Nevertheless, if you suspect that your insomnia is not temporary, it is advised to get a medical opinion as soon as possible.

Insomnia Symptoms

insomnia symptoms

Insomnia complications (By Häggström, Mikael (2014). “Medical gallery of Mikael Häggström 2014“. WikiJournal of Medicine 1 (2). DOI:10.15347/wjm/2014.008. ISSN 2002-4436. Public Domain)

Insomnia causes a variety of problems, none of which benefit you in any way.

  • Difficulty falling asleep at night is the most well-known symptom, and the one that alerts most people there is something wrong with them. It’s also the symptom that threatens to make things worse once you are aware of it; once you know it happens, you start to worry about it. The more you worry about it, the harder it gets to fall asleep, which reinforces your initial worries. Once this vicious cycle has started, it’s hard to break out of it.
  • Related to this is waking up during the night or waking up too early. Odds are your sleep cycle gets disturbed when you wake up at random intervals, which results in a lower quality of sleep. Combined with having difficulty falling asleep in the first place, this can lead to increased frustration and stress. These symptoms combined mean that even if you fall asleep, you won’t feel well-rested.
  • You may experience a desire to sleep during the day. A nap during the day will further disrupt your sleep cycle and make it harder to get a good quality sleep, so it’s recommended to avoid this.
  • Due to lack of sleep and poor sleep quality, you may become easily irritable, more susceptible to depression or prone to anxiety. These three symptoms should not be taken lightly as they affect your personal and professional life. If you have experienced these symptoms, try to be aware of the moments you are aware of them the most and do your best to counteract them when possible.
  • As the insomnia wears on, there is a real risk of becoming unfocused. You may forget appointments easier and paying attention to simple tasks becomes increasingly harder. Due to this, you will find you make mistakes more quickly, which will make you more frustrated with yourself and increase stress.


Insomnia is an affliction that many people share and impacts your life on every level.

If you find yourself suffering for a prolonged period of time, or find that it makes hinders your personal life, it is highly recommended that you seek medical advice.

Small changes to your lifestyle — banning electronics before bedtime, having set times to go to sleep and wake up, for instance — can make a positive impact in your life and may help prevent insomnia from ever making itself known.

Have you ever suffered from insomnia?


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