People with insomnia have difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or both. They may feel sleepy and irritable during the day, making leading a normal life difficult. Insomnia can be acute, lasting a few nights, or chronic, lasting much longer. Research suggests that about 10% of adults may suffer from chronic insomnia.
There are two different types of insomnia, primary and secondary insomnia, these have different causes.
Primary insomnia isn’t linked to any existing physical or psychological conditions. It can be caused by several things, stimulants (such as caffeine or nicotine) and disruptions to circadian rhythm (jet-lag, shift work etc.).
Secondary insomnia is the result of existing physical or psychological conditions. Some of the factors which can cause secondary insomnia are:
- Physical complaints – A number of physical complaints such as arthritis and asthma can cause insomnia
- Psychological conditions – Depression etc.
- Stress or anxiety – Worrying about something causes anxiety which can lead to stress and insomnia.
- Medication – Some medication has side effects which disrupt sleep
There are also several factors which can influence insomnia episodes.
- Age and gender – Older people and women are more likely to suffer from insomnia.
- Sleep apnoea – This is where you stop breathing for a short period of time regularly during sleep. This obviously disrupts sleep.
- Parasomnias – Parasomnias include snoring, sleep walking and teeth grinding. These again can make sleeping difficult.
- Depression and anxiety – Both these increase arousal, which can keep you awake and cause insomnia