What Causes Sleeplessness? (with pictures)

S. Gonzales
S. Gonzales
Watching TV late at night can contribute to insomnia.
Watching TV late at night can contribute to insomnia.

The medical term for sleeplessness is insomnia. Sleeplessness encompasses more than just the inability to fall asleep. It may also include difficulty remaining asleep or premature rising, such as awakening hours before intended. The elderly and chronically ill are most likely to suffer from sleep problems, though anyone who receives less than eight hours of uninterrupted sleep per night can be a candidate for insomnia.

Sleeplessness can have a number of causes, both mental and physical.
Sleeplessness can have a number of causes, both mental and physical.

Though sleeplessness may only seem to be a nuisance, the effects of insomnia can spill over to a person's daily life. It is not uncommon for those who suffer from insomnia to experience trouble performing rudimentary tasks and see a negative change in their memory and concentration. A decrease in alertness may promote the potential for accidents. Physical well-being may also suffer as the body performs important cellular restoration processes during sleep.

Insomnia may be related to emotional issues.
Insomnia may be related to emotional issues.

Insomnia usually finds its roots in a person's physical or emotional makeup. For example, any disturbing or painful physical condition like arthritis, cramps and the sudden need to urinate can lead to sleeplessness; on the other hand, simply being sedentary, pregnant or having a hormonal imbalance can result in insomnia. People who experience chronic stress, anxiety or depression may find themselves tossing and turning at night.

People with chronic stress may find it difficult to sleep.
People with chronic stress may find it difficult to sleep.

Sometimes, insomnia can be linked to controllable, environmental factors. Consuming caffeine or alcohol before bedtime can contribute to sleeplessness. In addition, engaging in excitable activities like arguments or watching provocative television programs can negatively effect sleeping patterns. Insomnia can even be traced back to the side effects of medication intended to treat another disease. Those who live in noisy or brightly-lit areas, do a lot of traveling or have trouble keeping their bedroom a constant, comfortable temperature may also have trouble falling asleep.

Sleep apnea may cause sleeplessness if it is not properly treated.
Sleep apnea may cause sleeplessness if it is not properly treated.

Certain pre-existing conditions may exacerbate sleeplessness in individuals. Those who suffer from heart or kidney problems, asthma, restless leg syndrome, Parkinson's disease and sleep apnea could be at risk for problems with insomnia. However, certain tests must be undergone to determine whether the insomnia is a symptom of these conditions or the cause of them.

Constant or loud noises around the neighborhood might cause insomnia.
Constant or loud noises around the neighborhood might cause insomnia.

A variety of treatments exist to cure sleeplessness. Home remedies include taking a long, warm bath and drinking a warm glass of milk. Exercising or walking approximately one hour before bedtime can increase the desire to sleep in individuals. Some sufferers may also try staying up throughout the night. For more serious cases, medications may be administered, though the type of medication depends on the reason why the insomnia exists.

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Discussion Comments

luna49

One of the biggest things that cause insomnia for me is just being unable to turn off my brain. I'm so consumed with things I need to do or what happened during the day, that I can't relax. I guess it's a stress response, but it's not always things I'm worried about. Often I've just got a lot on my mind and I can't let it go.

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    • Watching TV late at night can contribute to insomnia.
      Watching TV late at night can contribute to insomnia.
    • Sleeplessness can have a number of causes, both mental and physical.
      Sleeplessness can have a number of causes, both mental and physical.
    • Insomnia may be related to emotional issues.
      Insomnia may be related to emotional issues.
    • People with chronic stress may find it difficult to sleep.
      People with chronic stress may find it difficult to sleep.
    • Sleep apnea may cause sleeplessness if it is not properly treated.
      Sleep apnea may cause sleeplessness if it is not properly treated.
    • Constant or loud noises around the neighborhood might cause insomnia.
      Constant or loud noises around the neighborhood might cause insomnia.
    • Consuming energy drinks throughout the day can contribute to sleeplessness.
      Consuming energy drinks throughout the day can contribute to sleeplessness.
    • Sleeplessness may be caused by an uncomfortable bed.
      Sleeplessness may be caused by an uncomfortable bed.