Insomnia Causes: Types, Diagnosis, Treatment and Recommendations

It is a common sleep disorder. You can stay awake for a long time and have trouble falling asleep or feeling that you have not slept at all.

Insomnia tends to increase as women and men get older. Insomnia is a common sleep disorder. If you have insomnia, you can:

  • Stay awake for a long time and have trouble falling asleep.
  • Wake up many times and have trouble going back to sleep.
  • Wake up too early in the morning.
  • Feel that you have not slept at all.

The lack of sleep or the poor quality of it causes other symptoms that can affect daytime functioning. You may feel very sleepy and low energy during the day. You may have trouble thinking clearly or staying focused. Or, you may feel depressed or irritable.

Insomnia is defined as a brief and poor quality sleep that affects its functioning during the day. Although the amount of sleep a person needs varies, most people need between 7 and 8 hours of sleep per night to feel refreshed.

Insomnia can be mild to severe and varies in how often it occurs and how long it lasts. Acute insomnia is a short-term sleep problem that is usually related to a stressful or traumatic life event and lasts from a few days to a few weeks.

Acute insomnia can occur from time to time. With chronic insomnia, sleep problems occur at least 3 nights a week for more than a month.

What are the different types of insomnia and what causes them?

It is not always clear what causes insomnia, but stress and anxiety are common triggers. A poor sleep environment, such as an uncomfortable bed or a noisy bedroom, could also be a cause.

Otherwise, lifestyle factors such as jet lag, shift work or alcohol before bedtime can keep you from sleeping well at night.

And, for others, physical and mental health conditions are behind their lack of sleep.

There are 2 types of insomnia:

Primary insomnia : it is not a symptom or side effect of another medical condition. It’s your own mess. It can last a lifetime or be triggered by travel, shift work, stressful life events or other factors that interrupt your sleep routine.

Primary insomnia can end once the problem is resolved or it can last for years. Some people tend to be prone to primary insomnia.

Secondary insomnia : has an underlying cause, so it is a symptom or side effect of something else. It is the most common type. Secondary insomnia can have a medical cause, such as:

  • Depression or anxiety
  • Chronic pain such as fibromyalgia , migraine or arthritis.
  • Gastrointestinal problems such as heartburn.
  • Sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome.
  • Alzheimer disease.
  • Menopause.

Secondary insomnia can also be the result of:

  • Some medications, such as those that treat asthma , heart problems, allergies and colds.
  • Caffeine, tobacco and alcohol.
  • Poor environment to sleep (like too much light or noise, or a bed partner who snores).

Secondary insomnia often disappears once the underlying cause is treated, but it can become a primary insomnia.

Some people with primary or secondary insomnia form habits to cope with lack of sleep, such as worrying about sleep or going to bed too early. These habits can make insomnia worse or last longer.

Other Causes

Insomnia can be a consequence or a symptom of another problem, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, headache disorders, sleep disorders such as restless legs syndrome or symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes.

Certain medications, such as asthma and cold medicine, can cause insomnia. Commonly used substances such as caffeine, tobacco and alcohol can also cause insomnia.

The research also suggests that exposure to light at night, such as computer screens or smartphones, may contribute to insomnia.

In some cases, insomnia is not a side effect of another problem, but major changes in life, prolonged stress and travel can trigger primary insomnia.

Insomnia can be caused by physical and psychological factors. Sometimes there is an underlying medical condition that causes chronic insomnia, whereas transient insomnia may be due to an event or recent occurrence. The most common causes are:

  • Stress, anxiety or depression
  • Noise.
  • A room that is very hot or cold.
  • Uncomfortable beds
  • Alcohol, caffeine or nicotine
  • Recreational drugs such as cocaine or ecstasy.
  • Jet lag.
  • I work in shifts.

Insomnia is commonly caused by:

Interruptions in the circadian rhythm : sleep disorder by several time zones, shift changes, high altitudes, environmental noise, extreme heat or cold.

Psychological problems : bipolar disorder, depression , anxiety disorders or psychotic disorders.

Medical conditions : chronic pain, chronic fatigue syndrome, congestive heart failure, angina, acid reflux disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, sleep apnea, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, hyperthyroidism , arthritis, brain lesions, tumors, stroke .

Hormones : estrogen, hormonal changes during menstruation.

Other factors : sleeping next to a partner who snores, parasites, genetic conditions, overactive mind, pregnancy.

Are there more Women than Men with Insomnia?

Women are more likely to have insomnia than men. One reason is that hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle and menopause can affect sleep.

During perimenopause, women may have problems falling asleep and falling asleep. Hot flashes and night sweats can often disturb sleep.

During pregnancy, hormonal, physical and emotional changes can disturb sleep. Pregnant women, especially in the third trimester, may wake up frequently due to discomfort, leg cramps or the need to use the bathroom.

Some medical conditions that can cause secondary insomnia are also more common in women than in men. These include depression, anxiety, fibromyalgia and some sleep disorders, such as restless legs syndrome.

How is Insomnia Diagnosed?

Talk to your doctor if you have trouble falling asleep or falling asleep, especially if lack of sleep affects your daily activities. Keep a sleep diary for 2 weeks before seeing your doctor.

Consider the time of day when you fall asleep and wake up, changes in your daily sleep routine, your bedtime routine and how you feel during the day.

Your doctor can do a physical exam and take medical and sleep histories. He or she may also want to talk with your bed partner about how much and how well you are sleeping.

In some cases, you may be referred to a specialist or a sleep center for special exams.

How is insomnia treated?

If insomnia is caused by a short-term change in the sleep / wake schedule, as with jet lag, your sleep schedule can return to normal by itself. Making changes in lifestyle to help you sleep better can also help. If your insomnia makes it difficult for you to function during the day, talk to your doctor.

Treatment for chronic insomnia begins with:

  • Find and treat any medical or mental health problems.
  • Stop or reduce behaviors that can lead to insomnia or make it worse, such as drinking moderate to large amounts of alcohol at night.

Other treatments are:

Behavioral Cognitive Therapy

Research shows that cognitive behavioral therapy is an effective and lasting treatment of insomnia. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps you change thoughts and actions that get in the way of sleep. This type of therapy is also used to treat conditions such as depression, anxiety and eating disorders.

Cognitive behavioral therapy consists of one or more approaches. These are:

Cognitive control and psychotherapy : control or stop the negative thoughts and worries that keep you awake.

Sleep hygiene : Take measures to make quality sleep more likely, such as going to bed and getting up at the same time every day, not smoking, avoiding drinking too much coffee or alcohol at the end of the day and exercising regularly.

Sleep restriction : equalize the time you spend in bed with the amount of sleep you need. This is achieved by limiting the amount of time you spend in your bed without sleeping. You go to bed later and get up earlier than normal, and then slowly increase the time in bed until you can sleep through the night.

Stimulus control : conditioning a positive response when getting into bed. For example, use the bed only for sleep and sex.

Relaxation training : reduces stress and body tension. This may include meditation, hypnosis or muscle relaxation.

Biofeedback : measures the actions of the body, such as muscle tension and the frequency of brain waves, to help control them.

Stay passively awake : try not to fall asleep, thus stopping any worry you may have about falling asleep easily.


In some cases, insomnia is treated with medications:

Prescription sleeping medications : Prescription medications can help some people get the much needed rest.

Most sleep medications are used for short-term treatment, although some people with severe chronic insomnia may benefit from longer treatment.

It is important to understand the risks before using a medication to sleep. In some cases, sleeping medications may:

  • Become a habit
  • Mask medical problems that may be causing insomnia and delay treatment.
  • Interact with other medications you use and cause serious health problems.
  • Causing drowsiness or rebound insomnia, where sleeping problems get worse.

Uncommon side effects of sleeping medications include:

  • Severe allergic reactions or facial swelling.
  • High blood pressure , dizziness, weakness, nausea, confusion or loss of short-term memory.
  • Complex behaviors related to sleep, such as bingeing or driving while asleep.

Over-the-counter sleep aid : Over-the-counter sleep medications can help in an occasional sleepless night, but are not for regular or long-term use. Most over-the-counter sleep medications contain antihistamines .

Antihistamines are not safe for some people to use. Over-the-counter sleep medications can also have some unpleasant side effects, such as dry mouth, dizziness, and prolonged drowsiness.

Some dietary supplements claim to help people sleep. Some are “natural” products such as melatonin . Others are food supplements, such as teas or valerian extracts (an herb). It is not clear if these products are safe or if they really work.

Talk with your doctor about sleeping problems before using a sleep aid. You may have a medical problem that needs to be treated. In addition, insomnia can be better treated in other ways.

If you decide to use a medication to sleep, experts advise you to:

  • Read the medication guide first.
  • Use the medication at the time indicated by your doctor.
  • Do not drive or participate in activities that require you to be alert.
  • Always take the dose prescribed by your doctor.
  • Tell your doctor about other medications you use.
  • Call your doctor right away if you have any problems while using the medication.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol and using drugs.
  • Talk to your doctor if you want to stop using the sleeping medication. Some medications should be stopped gradually.

What can I do to sleep better?

  • Try to go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning. Do not take naps after 3 pm
  • Avoid caffeine, nicotine and alcohol at late hours of the day or night.
  • Do physical activity regularly. But exercise or physical activity that takes place too close to bedtime can make it hard to fall asleep. Be sure to eat dinner at least 2 to 3 hours before bedtime.
  • Keep your room dark, silent and cool. If light is a problem, try a sleeping mask. If noise is a problem, try earplugs, a fan or a “white noise” machine to cover the sounds.
  • Follow a routine to help you relax and relax before you sleep, such as reading a book, listening to music or taking a bath.
  • If you can not fall asleep in 20 minutes or do not feel drowsy, get out of bed and sit in your room or another room. Read or do a quiet activity until you feel sleepy. Then try to go back to bed.
  • If you stay awake worrying about things, try to make a list of things to do before going to bed so you do not have to worry about the time you spend in bed.
  • Use your bed only to sleep and have sex.
  • Consult your doctor or a sleep specialist if you think you have insomnia or another problem sleeping.