The inability to fall asleep, stay asleep or poor sleep quality is known as insomnia. Insomnia results in daytime drowsiness and fatigue, impairing a person’s ability to tend to daily responsibilities. About 25 percent of Americans experience insomnia on occasion and 10 percent suffer from chronic insomnia, according to the National Institutes of Health. Chronic insomnia is an ongoing condition in which an individual has difficulty sleeping for at least three nights a week for a month or longer. The reasons for insomnia varies, but secondary insomnia accounts for 90 percent of cases. In cases of secondary insomnia, the cause is some other underlying condition, a side effect of medication or other substances.
Stimulants, Sedatives and Medications
Beverages that contain caffeine such as coffee, cola or tea are stimulating and may contribute to your difficulty sleeping. If you are a smoker, the nicotine in cigarettes is also a stimulant that can keep you awake at night. While stimulants make it difficult for you to fall asleep, some sedatives such as alcohol can make you drowsy but prevent you from achieving a REM state which means that your sleep will not be restive. Taking prescriptions or over-the-counter medications for a medical disorder may adversely affect your sleep. Antihistamines, antidepressants, blood pressure medication, corticosteroids, decongestants or stimulants can interfere with your ability to sleep, reports the Mayo Clinic.
Some medical conditions can result in insomnia. According to the Mayo Clinic, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson disease have been linked to insomnia as well as heart failure, respiratory disease, cancer, overactive thyroid, stroke and gastro esophageal reflex disease, also known as GERD. Illnesses that result in chronic pain such as arthritis can also contribute to chronic insomnia.
Stress, Anxiety and Depression
Common everyday stress and anxiety can cause insomnia. Anxiety disorders as well as major stressors such as a major illness or death in the family, divorce, financial troubles, or loss of a job can disrupt sleep. Depression is another common reason for insomnia, according to the National Women’s Health Information Center.
Sleep Environment and Routine
Your bedroom and your nighttime routines are important factors to your sleep quality. If you are in the habit of watching television before you go to sleep or if you routinely use your bedroom for other activities, your sleep quality can suffer. Your bedroom should be a relaxing environment that promotes sleep, according to the National Institutes of Health. It is important to avoid engaging in stimulating activities right before bed and follow a routine that allows you to wind down before bedtime. The sleep environment and bedtime routines are important reasons for insomnia that can be changed for the better.
Women’s Health: Insomnia
National Institutes of Health: Sleeping Difficulty
Mayo Clinic: Insomnia