Insomnia can affect anyone, at any time. It’s thought that at least one third of all Australians have to deal with insomnia at some point in their life, however the severity of that insomnia – and the symptoms it creates – can vary widely.
So, what is insomnia exactly? Someone who has insomnia suffers from sleeplessness, in that they can’t sleep or they have a lack of sleep.
Perhaps they have problems falling asleep, or they may wake up through the night and cannot return to sleep. Sleeping problems caused by insomnia can also cause the sufferer to wake early in the morning, preventing him falling back asleep.
In terms of categorising insomnia, there is acute insomnia – usually suffered briefly, over a short period – and chronic insomnia, which disturbs the sufferer’s sleep at least three nights a week, over a period of at least three months.
How do you know if you have insomnia? There are many symptoms of insomnia, including those already mentioned.
Now to the causes of insomnia. Insomnia causes can be as varied as its symptoms. But, before we go into those causes, it is worth pointing out the two types of insomnia.
The terms acute and chronic refer to the frequency of the insomnia, and how long it lasts. However, the types of insomnia include:
When we look at the causes of insomnia, it’s important to look at whether it is acute or chronic.
Illness: An illness may prevent you from sleeping if it causes physical discomfort, or if it is causes you emotional discomfort in the form of stress.
Discomfort: It’s not just illness that causes discomfort. If you break your arm and cannot sleep in your usual position, that may prevent you from sleeping. As for emotional discomfort, this could be caused by anything from money worries to exams.
Stress: Significant stress can also cause sleeping problems. This may be caused by the death of someone close to you, a divorce, losing your job or changes at work, or even moving house.
Medications: Certain medications can interfere with sleep, resulting in insomnia. These medications can include those used to treat high blood pressure or asthma, depression, allergies and colds.
Sleep Schedule Disruptions: Insomnia can be caused by disruptions to your regular sleep pattern, for example, as a result of switching from day to night shift and vice versa, or by jet lag.
Environmental Factors: Some people are particularly sensitive to what’s going on around them as they sleep, which can prevent them from sleeping properly. Extreme hot or cold temperatures, or excessive light or noise can all cause insomnia.
Anxiety and Depression: For some people, anxiety and depression go hand-in-hand, while others may suffer only from anxiety, or only from depression. In any case, these conditions can directly attribute to chronic insomnia.
Chronic Stress: Ongoing stress can also be a major contributor to chronic insomnia, preventing sufferers from falling asleep, staying asleep or getting the rest they need.
Pain or Discomfort: For some people, pain and discomfort are constant companions. This can make it very difficult to sleep, or stay asleep for any length of time.
It’s also worth bearing in mind the effect lifestyle has on sleep. You may suffer from insomnia if you get into bad sleep patterns, such as sleeping in or taking naps to make up for lost sleep. You may also have trouble sleeping if you take work home or you have a lot of screen-time before bed.