Insomnia: What are its causes and how can it help get rid of insomnia?

Insomnia: What are its causes and how can it help get rid of insomnia?
Photo source: Getty images

Do you suffer from insomnia? Do you have its symptoms? And do you want to know what may be the cause? Is it possible to help and treat it?


Insomnia is a sleep disorder, there are problems with falling asleep, frequent sleep interruptions or very shallow sleep, or very early waking up in the morning and shortening of sleep.

Insomnia, as the disease is technically called, can sometimes be associated only with common causes, such as temporary increased stress, changes in the environment or time zone.

But it can also be a relatively serious disease that can indicate various disease states.

Insomnia, ie sleep deprivation, is the most common form of all sleep disorders. It is estimated that 5-35% of the population in the population suffers from insomnia.

Of these, women are more often affected. Its incidence is also related to age, and is increasing with increasing years.

Sleep disorders are divided into:

  • insomnia, or insomnia
  • excessive daytime sleepiness, ie hypersomnia
  • parasomnia, abnormal sleep behavior, confusion, screaming, crying
  • sleep-disordered breathing such as sleep apnea or snoring
  • circadian rhythm disorders, sleep and wake time shifts
  • abnormal movements during sleep
  • isolated symptoms
  • and a group of other sleep disorders

What is insomnia?

Insomnia is the cause of numerous difficulties, both mental and physical. For example, it is at risk for depression or alcohol dependence.

During a normal day, it is then a risk factor for fatigue, exhaustion, concentration or memory disorders. It increases tension, nervousness, but also injuries and associated physical problems.

Insomnia - intermittent sleep, waking up
Frequent waking up and the consequent problem of falling asleep. Photo source: Getty Images

Insomnia is characterized as a sleep disorder that may include:

  • a sleep disorder, such as prolonged sleep
  • interrupted sleep and then prolonged sleep again
  • early morning awakening
  • combination of the above

So a person may suffer from various forms of insomnia, for example, he has a problem sleeping in the evening, waking up almost in the morning or often waking up during the night, and then has difficulty falling asleep again. The result is insomnia. Insomnia can be accompanied by other sleep disorders, such as nightmares and sometimes sleepwalking.

During the day he may feel tired, exhausted, drowsy. But also emotion, moodiness, increased irritability, decreased motivation. And, for example, at work, there may be an increased tendency to make mistakes or accidents. As a result of insomnia, he can also experience various physical difficulties.

Depending on the duration, insomnia can be short-term, also referred to as transient or acute and chronic, if this state of sleep disorder lasts for more than 4 weeks. It can last from childhood or is induced by drugs or alcohol.

The onset of insomnia is influenced by numerous risk factors. Examples are, in particular, lifestyle, day and night regime, stress and mental strain, but also physical exertion. Of course, changing the environment and time zone can also cause difficulties.

Disease causes also include various diseases, such as diseases of the cardiovascular system, respiratory system. However, insomnia itself is the cause of various difficulties. It can be a cause of depression or anxiety. People with insomnia are more prone to alcoholism.

The table lists the forms of insomnia

The name of insomnia Description
Transitional it is acute, short-term but also stress-induced within 7 to 14 days the cause can be stress, such as testing, expecting whether pain, or even working for change
Psychophysiological is chronic that lasts longer than 4 weeks
Paradoxical pseudosomnia, sleep hypochondria 
Idiopathic in the persistence of difficulties since childhood 
Behavioral  in childhood 
In case of inadequate sleep hygiene  sleep mode, habits
With psychopathology  in psychiatric disorders such as anxiety or depression 
Induced by drugs and other substances corticosteroids, beta-blockers, diuretics, theophylline, benzodiazepines  alcohol or drugs caffeine, nicotine
Organic that is, for other diseases, such as hypertension , cardiac asthma, neurodegenerative disease, GERD , arthritis , vertebrogenic algic syndrome hormonal changes

What is sleep?

Sleep is a physiological state. It is needed for regeneration and gaining strength. It is necessary and necessary. Its deficiency causes physical and mental difficulties. Sleep is a state when a person perceives his surroundings to a lesser extent.

However, metabolism and the heart do not sleep and work. During sleep, your breathing slows down as well as therate of the heart andblood pressure lowers. The synthesis of cell structures takes place, the organism cleanses itself and gains new energy.

During sleep, different forms alternate. This is the phase of deep sleep, ie non-REM and REM, which is the shallower part. During a period of deep, ie non-REM sleep, we recover and gain energy. The other side is REM sleep. It is shallower, dreams come true during it.

The required length of sleep is individual, on average 7-9 hours.
However, for a certain group of people it is enough to sleep 4-5 hours.
On the contrary, someone needs to spend 8-9 hours sleeping.

REM is an abbreviation of the words Rapid Eye movement, translated as fast eye movements. These are missing in the non-REM section. We can also record the alternation of these two forms on EEG examinations, while they differ in the electrical activity of the central nervous system.


Short-term sleep disorders are caused by various factors. An example is a shift in time, the consumption of inappropriate, heavy food before bed, but also late dinner or drinking stimulating drinks, not just coffee and alcohol. The quality of sleep is also affected by ambient noise or light.

An unsuitable bed, mattress or pillow can cause sleep problems. And therefore the change of environment. Long-term stress, marital and partner disagreements, but you also need to be careful about overwork.

This type of insomnia is short-term, acute, ie transient. It does not take more than one to two weeks. Alternatively, for the duration of the excessive burden, whether physical or mental. Chronic insomnia is a more serious form.

Long-term insomnia lasts longer than 4 weeks. It is reported to be approximately 10 to 15% of all insomnia subspecies. She is also accompanied by conditions such as anxiety for fear of not sleeping.

So there are several causes of insomnia, as shown in the table. Lifestyle, sleep hygiene, irregular daytime regime, sleep during the day, or even some disorders and diseases also have a great influence. Pain or itching has a negative effect.

Diseases that cause insomnia are, for example:

  • GERD, or reflux disease of the stomach and esophagus
  • cardiovascular diseases and including hypertension, cardiac asthma
  • asthma
  • hay fever, allergy
  • upper airway inflammation, rhinitis and cold
  • arthritis
  • neurological and neurodegenerative diseases
  • back pain
  • chronic pain
  • hormonal problems and changes
    • hyperthyroidism
    • menopause, ie insomnia in transition
    • pregnancy
    • but also insomnia before menstruation
  • osteoporosis
  • but also mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, delirium and others

TIP:  Even delirium can cause insomnia. Find out the other causes in the magazine article.

Insomnia in women and pregnant women

As mentioned, insomnia can be the cause of hormonal changes. It is therefore important for young women to rule out pregnancy due to spontaneous treatment. Hormonal changes, and therefore also insomnia, can occur in early pregnancy, ie at the beginning.

Pregnancy and insomnia, woman lying on the bed
Insomnia is also common in pregnancy. Source: Getty Images

Difficulty sleeping can resolve during pregnancy. But subsequently, many women report that the difficulties occurred in the third trimester. The reason is the size of the fetus and uterus. This restricts the pregnant in choosing a sleeping position. The best is a mild position on the left side, which will release the return flow of blood to the heart.

Of course, in addition to position restrictions, frequent urination during the night is also associated, also for the reduced space for the bladder. The larger size of the uterus also presses on the diaphragm, which can cause difficulty breathing during the night.

In the supine position, heartburn is also associated. Other causes may include bloating and a feeling of fullness. Heart palpitations are common due to their higher heart rate. Another factor is stress. Pregnant women are also more prone to it.

Not that insomnia should be considered a symptom of pregnancy, but the hormonal changes caused by it can lead to this condition. It is similar in the case of changes in hormone levels during the menstrual cycle. When it may occur before menstruation. The same is true for menopause.

Therefore, women should also think about these reasons if they have difficulty sleeping. Naturally, if the symptoms recur or are disproportionate, it is best to consult a gynecologist. As many drugs are contraindicated in pregnancy and there may be more serious causes.


Symptoms vary according to the form of insomnia. A typical manifestation is usually shifting from side to side in bed in a person suffering from a sleep disorder. Or the need for a longer calm and enthusiasm for sleep.

Waking up in the middle of the night, waking up frequently at night and for no apparent reason, and then having trouble falling asleep again. The early form of insomnia is manifested by an early awakening to the gut, even a few hours before the real need to get up in the morning.

Insomnia - getting up early
Rising up like a symptom of insomnia. Source: Getty images

In general, manifestations of insomnia are typical. Symptoms include:

  • sleep disorder, i.e. severe sleep
  • intermittent, poor sleep
    • which complicates reclaimed sleep
  • premature awakening to the giant
  • feeling inadequate recovery, gaining energy, resting after waking up

Subsequently, insomnia also manifests itself during the day, as shown in the table

  • fatigue
  • exhaustion
  • weakness
  • decreased attention and insufficient concentration
  • memory disorders
  • frequent mood swings and increased irritability, irritability
  • loss of motivation
  • reduced initiative
  • impaired judgment, assessment of the situation
  • increased propensity for errors
  • increased risk of injury
  • daytime sleepiness
  • various physical difficulties
    • headache
    • palpitations  and increased heart rate
    • high blood pressure
    • indigestion, nausea
    • pallor
    • tras
    • increased muscle irritability
    • pain muscles
    • sweating
    • tired eyes
    • reduced immunity
    • it also causes anxiety, depression and other disorders

Insomnia is a risk factor for physical problems and illness. Such as reduced immunity, cardiovascular disease or diabetes. In childhood, it can cause growth retardation. It can cause overweight and obesity.


Diagnosing insomnia is not easy. Short-term or occasional insomnia does not mean a pathological condition. However, if the difficulties persist, professional participation, ie examination, is required. As chronic sleep disorders can lead to severe physical problems.

The basis is the anamnesis and identification of specific problems. Time data are collected, such as the time of lying down, falling asleep, getting up. But also other information about sleep, dreams, movements during sleep, waking up at night, snoring or voice expressions during sleep.

Examinations are performed, brain and muscle activity are measured. It is also important to rule out organic causes of insomnia. Anamnesis is most important in the diagnosis of sleep disorders, but some of the following tests may be helpful:

  • polysomnography, ie overnight sleep monitoring
  • EEG. that is, an examination of the electrical activity of the brain
  • EMG, such as monitoring the electrical activity of muscles, such as the chin muscles
  • EOG, ie electrooculography, monitoring of eye movements
  • monitoring the flow of air in front of the nose and mouth
  • chest and abdomen movements while breathing
  • ECG, ie examination of the electrical activity of the heart
  • blood oxygen saturation
  • video recording
  • actigraphy, evaluation of physical activity over several days
  • ESS, short for Epworth Sleepiness Scale, which is a subjective assessment of daytime sleepiness
  • a sleep diary, time data on sleep and wakefulness for 4 weeks are kept


Insomnia can take several forms. Either a person has trouble sleeping in the evening, or he has a restless sleep and often wakes up at night when sleep is actually interrupted, or he can wake up very early in the morning and no longer sleep.

Insomnia can be caused by increased stress, both physical and mental. Or the cause is poor sleep hygiene. It is said to last for a lifetime. At the same time, periods with a reduction of problems alternate. Subsequently, she is again provoked by the stress period.

It can also be caused by abuse and dependence on sleeping pills, ie hypnotics. If insomnia is short-lived, it is not such a problem for humans. However, it still causes difficulties such as fatigue, weakness or exhaustion.

Of course, there are other difficulties associated with a long-term insomnia problem. Such as disorders of concentration, memory, but also frequent mood swings. One loses initiative, interest, motivation.

Sleep disorders can be the result of serious problems. These degrade work performance, which results in an increased propensity for errors, the risk of injury. These difficulties are subsequently accompanied by physical manifestations.

The nervous system is more irritating. And it can also cause difficulties at the level of the nerve-muscle connection. The manifestation is the routes, but also difficulties similar to tetany, even with heart palpitations and other difficulties.

TIP: information about tetany is given in a magazine article.

A person feels headaches, muscle aches sweats more, is pale and may have digestive problems. Of course, the symptoms can be different for each person. Insomnia can culminate in cardiovascular diseases, such as high blood pressure.

Insomnia can occur with mental disorders. As is the case with anxiety or depression. But on the contrary, insomnia can cause these mental problems. The development of obesity and diabetes is at risk.

How it is treated: Insomnia

How can one help and get rid of insomnia? Treatment and appropriate medication

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Interesting resources

  • "What Is Insomnia?". NHLBI
  • "What Causes Insomnia?". NHLBI
  • "How Is Insomnia Diagnosed?". NHLBI.
  • Watson NF, Vaughn BV (2006). Clinician's Guide to Sleep Disorders. CRC Press. p. 10. ISBN 978-0-8493-7449-4.
  • "How Is Insomnia Treated?". NHLBI
  • Qaseem A, Kansagara D, Forciea MA, Cooke M, Denberg TD (July 2016). "Management of Chronic Insomnia Disorder in Adults: A Clinical Practice Guideline From the American College of Physicians". Annals of Internal Medicine165 (2): 125–33. 
  • Wilson JF (January 2008). "In the clinic. Insomnia". Annals of Internal Medicine148 (1): ITC13–1–ITC13–16. 
  • "Dyssomnias" (PDF). WHO. pp. 7–11. 
  • Roth T (August 2007). "Insomnia: definition, prevalence, etiology, and consequences". Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine3 (5 Suppl): S7–10. 
  • Tasman A, Kay J, Lieberman JA, First MB, Riba M (2015). Psychiatry, 2 Volume Set (4 ed.). John Wiley & Sons. p. 4253. ISBN 978-1-118-75336-1.
  • Punnoose AR, Golub RM, Burke AE (June 2012). "JAMA patient page. Insomnia". JAMA307 (24): 2653. 
  • Edinger, Jack D.; Arnedt, J. Todd; Bertisch, Suzanne M.; Carney, Colleen E.; Harrington, John J.; Lichstein, Kenneth L.; Sateia, Michael J.; Troxel, Wendy M.; Zhou, Eric S.; Kazmi, Uzma; Heald, Jonathan L.; Martin, Jennifer L. (2021). "Behavioral and psychological treatments for chronic insomnia disorder in adults: An American Academy of Sleep Medicine systematic review, meta-analysis, and GRADE assessment". Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine17 (2): 263–298.
  • Trauer JM, Qian MY, Doyle JS, Rajaratnam SM, Cunnington D (August 2015). "Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Chronic Insomnia: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis". Annals of Internal Medicine163 (3): 191–204.
  • Attarian HP (2003). "chapter 1". Clinical Handbook of Insomnia. Springer Science & Business Media. ISBN 978-1-59259-662-1.
  • Insomnia > Complications Archived 8 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine. Mayo Clinic.