Insomnia is Latin for “no sleep.” As the name implies, insomnia refers to the inability to get adequate, restful sleep. There are different schools of thought as to the causes of insomnia and whether insomnia is always triggered by an underlying cause. There are, however, a number of usual culprits that interfere with a quality night’s sleep.
One key factor that is commonly associated with sleep-related problems is stress. Stress can interfere with restful sleep and cause the mind to stay active at night. Anxiety caused by events such as the loss of a loved one, a break up, or a job loss can all contribute to insomnia. Concerns about work, health, family, or school can keep the mind racing when it is supposed to be preparing for sleep.
Poor Sleep Habits
Poor sleep habits can lead to bouts of insomnia. Irregular bed times, staying in bed for activities other than sleep, eating large meals before bed, or engaging in stimulating activities before bed can all contribute to the disruption of natural sleep cycles.
Stimulants and Alcohol
Stimulants such as coffee, soda, tea, or nicotine can disrupt sleep. These stimulants can interfere with rest when taken too late in the afternoon. Alcohol is more of a sedative than a stimulant, but while it can make it easier to fall asleep, alcohol blocks the deeper stages of sleep. Alcohol can also cause premature awakening at night or in the early morning.
A change in schedule, such as during traveling or working a late or early shift, can disrupt the body’s “internal clock,” or circadian rhythm. This internal clock regulates the sleep wake cycles and the body’s metabolism and temperature. When this rhythm gets thrown off, it can take the body some time to re-adjust and get back into sync.
Eating Before Bed
One common cause for insomnia is eating too much before bed. While it is usually not a big deal to have a little snack before bed, eating a lot beforehand can cause physical discomfort and heart burn, thus making it difficult to sleep.
Many of these causes for insomnia are treatable. A key factor is forming healthy bedtime habits. By winding down and turning off electronics a couple hours before sleep, you can help prime your body for rest. If you work to establish a positive sleep routine with these issues but see no improvement, you should consult your doctor for help.