Insomnia – symptoms, causes and other associated risk factors


This is one of the most common sleep disorders which are making someone hard to fall asleep, hard to stay asleep or it can cause someone to wake up to early and he or she will not be able to get back to sleep to back. He or she may still feel tired when wake up. This condition can sap not only your mood and energy levels but also your health, quality of life and work performance. We know that how much sleep is enough varies from one person to another person but the most adults need 7 – 8 hours per night. At some point of adult’s life, they can experience acute (short – term) insomnia which can last for days or weeks. This condition usually results from a traumatic event or stress [1]. But also there are other people who have chronic (long – term) insomnia and this type of insomnia can last for a month or more. Insomnia can be the primary problem but also it can be associated with other medical conditions or medications.

Insomnia symptoms

Here are the symptoms of insomnia [2]:

  • Ongoing worries about sleep
  • Increased errors or accidents
  • Difficulty paying attention, focusing on tasks or remembering
  • Irritability, depression or anxiety
  • Daytime tiredness or sleepiness
  • You have slept during the night but this is not helping you and you are not feeling well rested
  • Waking up too early
  • Waking up during the night
  • Difficulty falling asleep at night


Insomnia causes

Insomnia can be the primary problem or it can be associated with other conditions. The chronic insomnia is usually a result of habits, life events or stress which disrupts the sleep. When you treat the underlying cause, then it can resolve the insomnia but in some cases it can last for years. Here are causes of chronic insomnia:

  • Eating too much late in the evening: When someone has a light snack before he or she goes to sleep is okay, but if he or she eats too much then they can feel physically uncomfortable while they are lying down. There are many people who experience heartburn (which is a backflow of acid and food from the stomach into the esophagus after eating) which can keep them awake. [3]
  • Poor sleep habits: Poor sleep habits are including an irregular bedtime schedule, naps, using your bed for work, watching TV or eating and an uncomfortable sleep environment. Smartphones, video games, TVs, computers or other screens just before the bedtime can interfere with your sleep cycle. [4]
  • Travel or work schedule: We know that our circadian rhythms act as an internal clock, guiding such things as body temperature, metabolism and sleep – wake cycle. When there is disrupt in your body’s circadian rhythms, then this can lead to insomnia. There are many causes which can lead to disrupt such as frequently changing shifts, working a late or early shift and jet lag from traveling across multiple time zones. [5]
  • Stress: We know that concerns about family, finances, health, school or work can keep our mind active at night which can make us difficult to sleep. Also stressful life events or trauma, such as a job loss, divorce and the death or illness of a loved one, can lead to insomnia. [1]

Risk factors: Almost every single person has occasional sleepless night. But your risk of getting insomnia is grater if you:

  • If you do not have a regular schedule: Traveling or changing shifts at work can disrupt your sleep – wake cycle. [5]
  • You are under a lot of stress: It is known fact that stressful events and times can cause temporary insomnia. But if you have a major or long – lasting insomnia, then this could lead to chronic insomnia. [1]
  • You have a mental health disorder or physical health condition: There are many problems which impact your physical or mental health and they can disrupt your sleep. [6]
  • You are over age 60: There are some changes which are happening in health and sleep pattern and this is a reason why the insomnia increases with age. [7]
  • You are a woman: There are some hormonal shifts which are happening in menopause and during the menstrual cycle which can play a role. When woman is in menopause, then hot flashes, night sweats and menopause often disrupt the sleep. Also the insomnia is very common during the pregnancy. [8]


[1] Hall Brown TS, Akeeb A, Mellman TA. The role of trauma type in the risk for insomnia. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. 2015;11(7): 735–9.

[2] Roth T. Insomnia: Definition, prevalence, etiology, and consequences. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. 2007;3(5Suppl):S7–S10.

[3] Kinsey AW, Ormsbee MJ. The health impact of nighttime eating: Old and new perspectives. Nutrients. 2015;7(4):2648–62.

[4] Hershner SD, Chervin RD. Causes and consequences of sleepiness among college students. Nature and Science of Sleep. 2014;6:73–84.

[5] Åkerstedt T, Wright KP. Sleep loss and fatigue in shift work and shift work disorder. Sleep Medicine Clinics. 2009;4(2):257–71.

[6] Fernandez-Mendoza J, Vgontzas AN. Insomnia and its impact on physical and mental health. Current Psychiatry Reports. 2013;15(12):418.

[7] Patel D, Steinberg J, Patel P. Insomnia in the elderly: A review. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. 2018;14(6):1017–24.

[8] Baker FC, de Zambotti M, Colrain IM, Bei B. Sleep problems during the menopausal transition: prevalence, impact, and management challenges. Nature and Science of Sleep. 2018; 10: 73–95.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.