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Causes Of Insomnia (List)

Insomnia is considered a sleep disorder characterized by an inability to fall asleep or stay asleep throughout the night.  There are many different types of insomnia, some of which are short-term days or weeks), and others which are long-term (e.g. months or years).  If you suffer from insomnia, it is important to realize that it may compromise your sleep quality, reducing the amount of sleep you get or ability to successfully transition through various sleep stages.

The sleep impairment as a result of insomnia may translate directly to cognitive impairment or decline.  When you don’t get proper sleep, your brain doesn’t operate as well as it could.  You may experience significant “brain fog” and your performance at work or school may decline.  You may feel mentally drained, have a tough time remembering things, or colleagues notices that something with you is amiss – all due to insomnia.

Physically you may feel as if you got ran over by a bus.  Your joints may ache, you have wicked headaches, and you barely can summon the energy to walk – let alone thinking about going to the gym.  If you never take the time to pinpoint the cause of your insomnia and properly treat it, you may end up in a state of functional impairment – both cognitively and physically.

Causes of Insomnia (List)

We’ve all heard the common sense causes of insomnia such as drinking caffeine before bed and exercising at night.  However, many people remain vastly undereducated on the topic of sleep quality.  The Sleep Health Foundation estimates that nearly 33% of all people (1 out of 3) have insomnia.  Rates of insomnia would drop dramatically if people would take time to pinpoint the cause and properly treat it.

Air pollution: Many people fail to realize that the quality of the air within your house may keep you up at night.  If you feel as if you’re not breathing in fresh air or that it’s full of toxins, you may be less able to fall asleep.  It is known that air pollution is associated with breathing problems during sleep, some of which may contribute to abnormal transitions through your sleep cycle, leading to sleep-maintenance insomnia.

It is estimated that over 15% of adults in the United States have disordered breathing during sleep.  Some of this disordered breathing could be caused by poor air quality.  Therefore if you live in a city with a high level of air pollution, this is a potential cause.  Keep in mind that air pollution is not limited to outdoor-only – many people use indoor cleaning sprays, hair products, and other fumes that could compromise sleep.

Bed discomfort: A highly obvious cause of insomnia is sleeping on an uncomfortable surface.  Who’s going to fall asleep when they feel as if they’re sleeping on a hunk of plywood.  Some people prefer sleeping on a harder surface, while others prefer a softer one.  It is important to find the bed surface that best suits you as an individual.  If you find that you’re able to fall asleep and stay asleep better on a softer surface, you should invest in a soft mattress.

If you sleep better on a hard surface, but only have access to a soft one, it could be a cause for your poor sleep quality.  Additionally if you’re sleeping on a surface that’s not designed for sleep (e.g. a couch), this may be a direct cause of your insomnia.  Be sure to also consider tweaking the pillows, number of sheets you sleep with, etc. – to set yourself up for a good night’s sleep.

Brain waves: In some cases, a person’s brain waves may be directly contributing to their insomnia.  Those with high levels of stress and an overactive sympathetic nervous system tend to have different EEG (electroencephalograph) readings than those with low or standard levels of stress.  When activity in the sympathetic nervous system ramps up over time, it stimulates the fight-or-flight response, which results in stimulatory beta waves.

As beta waves increase, the slower alpha waves decrease.  Think of beta waves as being stuck in full-throttle, whereas alpha is a shift downwards.  With insufficient beta activity, the brain stays in hyperdrive and isn’t able to shift itself to a slower, more relaxed state – leading to insomnia.  In some cases, insomnia may be mitigated by boosting alpha frequencies before bed.

Caffeine consumption: Over 80% of adults in the United States drink coffee, meaning a large percentage of the population is getting a large daily dose of caffeine.  Some people drink multiple cups of coffee or rely on coffee to help them accomplish cognitively-demanding work.  In addition to coffee, people use products like caffeine pills, energy drinks, and even pre-workout supplements – all of which contain caffeine.

While caffeine affects everyone differently, one potential cause of insomnia is the caffeine.  In regards to caffeine, a couple of factors should be considered including: timing and quantity.  If you drink caffeine in the morning (e.g. before noon), your insomnia may not be caffeine induced.  However, if you’re drinking coffee after 12 PM, yet wonder why you can’t sleep at night – it may be time to reconsider that afternoon cup of java.

For some people, drinking caffeine after 10 AM could contribute to insomnia depending on the amount that’s consumed.  If you suspect caffeine may be a problem, stop drinking it in the afternoon and scale back on the total amount consumed.

Circadian rhythm disruption: If you aren’t in tune with your body’s natural circadian rhythm, you may be unknowingly causing your own insomnia.  Your circadian rhythm is your body’s natural production of certain hormones and other physiological functions based on the time of day.  Prior to the time that your body feels should be “night,” it beefs up production of various hormones such as melatonin.

Naturally, the increased production of these hormones should make you feel tired.  If your circadian rhythm has been disrupted by an altitude change, travel across time zones (e.g. jet lag), or shift-work – you may end up with insomnia.  Even something as simple as variation in your bedtime each night can disrupt the circadian rhythm enough to cause insomnia.

  • Altitude change: Those transitioning from a low to a high altitude may experience insomnia as a result of low air pressure. It is thought that nearly 1/4 people that rise 2000 feet above sea level will experience insomnia as a result of this increase.
  • Jet lag: This refers to a circadian disruption as a result of traveling across time zones. The body is unable to adapt to the new time zone, and needs some time to recover.  It is estimated that for each time zone crossed, the body needs a full day of recovery time.
  • Shift-work: Those working jobs requiring different shifts such as a morning shift, noon shift, and night shift will end up with a disrupted circadian rhythm. In fact, they may even end up with a condition known as “shift work sleep disorder” characterized by circadian rhythm abnormalities from various “shifts.”  Many individuals with shift work end up with insomnia or hypersomnia.
  • Variable sleep schedule: If you don’t adhere to a strict sleep schedule, your circadian rhythm will be thrown out of balance. Part of proper sleep hygiene is maintaining a consistent, relatively rigid sleep schedule that isn’t subject to daily change.  When you determine an optimal time to go to bed and wake up, stick with it.  The greater the variation in your nightly sleep schedule, the greater the chance that this variation will cause insomnia.

Dietary habits: Food quality, food quantity, and timing of food consumption can determine whether someone experiences insomnia or gets a good night’s sleep.  If you are struggling with insomnia, first you may want to ditch all forms of caffeine for awhile and determine whether your sleep improves.  Next, you’ll want to stop eating or snacking before bedtime – too many snacks late at night will compromise your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Other foods like chocolate contain caffeine that could trigger a stimulating effect, resulting insomnia.  If you’re eating sugary foods like candies, ice creams, cakes, or pastries after dinner – you may be setting yourself up for a blood sugar spike, followed by a crash before bed.  This crash may lead you to wake up during the middle of the night.

Foods with various additives and artificial ingredients can also trigger insomnia or other food-related sensitivities that lead to insomnia.  There is reason to believe that diets high in sugars and refined carbohydrates can sabotage your ability to fall asleep.  They do this by triggering a fight-or-flight response in the body, which leads to extended wakefulness and inability to sleep.

Stop eating meals late in the day, focus on quality foods without artificial ingredients, and avoid excess snacking after dinner.  Also cut back on refined carbohydrates and foods high in sugar.  Focus on consuming vegetables, healthy fats, proteins, complex carbohydrates and some fruits.

Drinking alcohol: If you like drinking alcohol, it is important to realize that alcohol can cause insomnia.  While in some cases alcohol can help a person fall asleep, it is known that large quantities tend to interfere with sleep quality and disrupt the circadian rhythm.  Alcohol can trigger the release of adrenaline, disrupt hormone production, as well as homeostatic neurotransmission.

This is why chronic drinkers tend to find that they suffer from insomnia.  In many cases people will resort to drinking alcohol in effort to fall asleep.  While this may be an effective short-term strategy, it is an insidious one over the long-term.  If you are serious about overcoming insomnia, you’ll want to go through alcohol withdrawal and remain abstinent.

Emotional disturbances: Those with significant emotional disturbances may experience insomnia as a result.  Strong emotions such as grief, fear, and anger can stimulate the sympathetic nervous system to make us feel energetically charged.  If these emotions aren’t properly released or channeled, they will certainly interfere with our ability to fall asleep.

An example of an emotion that causes insomnia is grief.  Those who are grieving as a result of a relationship break-up or the death of a loved one often have a tough time winding down for sleep.  Their sleep ability to fall asleep and stay asleep is compromised by this charged emotion.  It is important to recognize any potential emotions that could be causing your insomnia and deal with them properly.

It may be helpful to enlist the help of a trained psychotherapist or psychologist who can help you work through your emotions.  If you have repressed emotions or any sort of trauma (e.g. PTSD), you may need to deal with various elements of the trauma before your insomnia starts to improve.  Keep in mind that even minor emotional disturbances such as getting worked up over an argument at work can lead to insomnia.

Environmental disturbances: If you are in an environment that’s keeping you awake, you’ll likely need to make some modifications or consider moving into a new environment.  If you’re sleeping next to a partner that keeps their cell phone on during the night, you haven’t blocked out bright light, or you live in a place where your safety is threatened – you may experience insomnia.

  • Bright lights: Another mistake people make is by exposing themselves to bright lights or screens before bed. If you live in a place where you see bright lights coming through the window, your brain may think it’s still daytime – triggering a wakefulness response.  If you want to stop bright-light related insomnia, consider blue light blocking for better sleep. Invest in “blue blocking sunglasses” for the mid-to-late afternoons, and light-proof curtains for any light shining through your windows.
  • Cell phones: Your average person sleeps with their cell phone near their bed with it turned on, and with notifications left on. This means that if they hear a beep, buzz, or ring – they’re going to check the phone.  Keeping your cell phone sound on literally shocks your nervous system, leading to a fight-or-flight rush each time it beeps.  Furthermore, even if you disable the sound at night, keeping your phone “on” (e.g. 4G or Wi-Fi) is radiating a RF-EMF (radio frequency electromagnetic field) around the room.  This field is contacting your skull, and penetrating the brain, causing enough chaos to keep you awake.
  • Loud noise: If you hear sirens, music, or a noisy apartment neighbor – it’s going to keep you awake. This noise may startle you or it may prevent you from falling asleep.  In this case, it may be advised to target the source of the noise by eliminating it, but if that isn’t possible, investing in some earplugs or earmuffs may be beneficial.
  • Mold: If you have mold in your house, it may cause insomnia. Millions of Americans have mold in their homes, yet aren’t aware of it.  Mold is a hidden kryptonite, affecting your performance in subtle ways.  Without proper remediation of the mold, you may end up with chronic insomnia.
  • Partner: For those with partners, it is important to consider that their snoring, rolling, or other habits may affect our ability to fall asleep. If a partner insists on keeping their cell phone turned on in bed, that alone can be a cause.  Factor in a potentially small bed, rolling around, and snoring – and you’ve got a recipe for insomnia.
  • Safety: If you feel as if your safety is threatened, such as those living in areas with high-crime rates, you may become stressed out, hypervigilant, and even paranoid. This stress may be justified because relaxation may lead to your death.  To decrease insomnia, you’ll want to move to an environment where you feel safer, and less threatened by potential crime.
  • Room temperature: Sometimes insomnia can be chalked up to the temperature of your room. If the room is too hot, you may find yourself sweating and unable to sleep.  Warm temperatures can lead to broken sleep and/or an inability to fall asleep.  If the room is too cold, you may also have a tough time winding down.  Experiment with room temperature and blanket ratios to find the optimal temperature to prevent insomnia; this may be subject to slight individual variation.
  • TV, iPad, Computer: Many people are glued to various forms of technology before bed. They may be playing video games on the TV, checking apps on their iPad, or sitting with their laptop in bed perusing YouTube videos.  The problem is that all of these activities stimulate wakefulness.  When factoring in radiation from Wi-Fi from the iPad and computer and screen brightness, you’ve set yourself up for insomnia.
  • Wi-Fi routers: Another unknown cause of poor sleep is your Wi-Fi router. If you keep this router turned on, and it is located near your head or even in your bedroom, it may be affecting your ability to fall asleep.  Consider shutting down your router before heading to bed in effort to decrease your insomnia.

Exercise at night: When you engage in strenuous exercise, your body produces hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine, leading to increased alertness.  This is why most experts recommend avoiding exercise at night, particularly cardio.  Too much exercise or “over-exercise” may also lead to insomnia, stimulating the production of adrenaline and a catabolic state due to lack of restorative sleep.

To avoid exercise-induced insomnia, you should strive to exercise earlier in the day and/or decrease the intensity of your workouts later in the day.  If you notice that your insomnia worsens on nights that you work out in the late afternoon or at night, exercise may be the culprit.  Exercising a moderate amount, particularly early in the day should actually reduce insomnia and improve sleep quality.

Genetics: It is thought that some people may have inherited genetics that make them more susceptible to insomnia than others.  Unless a person endures a serious childhood trauma, they generally will sleep pretty good.  Those with idiopathic insomnia, a debilitating, lifelong type of insomnia may have a genetic polymorphism that alters the circadian rhythm and/or results in abnormal production of sleep-inducing hormones at night.

In a majority of cases, the specific cause of insomnia is epigenetics.  Epigenetics is a term meaning the interaction of genetics with the environment.  Your environment will turn “on”  and “off” specific genes based on various stimuli.  If you’re in a healthy environment, you’ll have a better chance of turning on the optimal genes for proper sleep.

If you’re in somewhat of a sketchy environment with pollution, mold, stressors, and in a bad relationship – you probably aren’t going to sleep as well.  Certain genes will get turned “on” that potentiate insomnia, while others that decrease insomnia will get turned “off.”  Most sleep experts believe that a significant number of epigenetic mechanisms are responsible for both the development and maintenance of insomnia.

It is also important to consider whether you have a mutation of your MTHFR gene, potentially leading to low levels of serotonin as a symptom of undermethylation.  If you haven’t tested for MTHFR polymorphisms, you may remain unaware of a potentially direct cause of insomnia.

Hormones: Imbalances in hormones can easily cause insomnia, especially among women facing perimenopause or the transition to menopause.  During perimenopause a woman’s ovaries aren’t producing as much estrogen and progesterone, a hormone that can elicit sleep promoting effects.  The alterations in hormone levels can disrupt the circadian rhythm and directly contribute to insomnia.

Even if you aren’t menopausal, it is important to check your hormone levels as they may be causing your insomnia.  If you have suboptimal levels of important hormones for your particular age and sex, you may want to pursue medical treatment to help improve your health and tone down the insomnia.  Another condition called hyperthyroidism (too much production of thyroid hormone) can lead to insomnia if left untreated.

Illicit drugs: People that frequently use illicit substances, particularly stimulants may end up with insomnia as a result.  Illicit drugs alter brain functioning in terms of regional activation, neurotransmitter levels, receptor densities, and brain waves.  Even if you take drugs that promote relaxation, it is possible that they’ll disrupt your circadian rhythm and ultimately lead to insomnia.

Using stimulants in the latter half of the day (e.g. afternoon) is well-known to cause insomnia.  Even using opioids, hallucinogens, or something like marijuana may throw off your natural circadian rhythm depending on the time they are used.  It is important to consider that an illicit substance habit could be creating changes in your brain that exacerbate insomnia.

Lack of exercise: While exercising too much or too late in the day can contribute to insomnia, so can sedentarism or lack of exercise.  If you remain sedentary, yet are consuming food – your body isn’t burning any of the energy it has obtained.  As humans evolved, they frequently engaged in hunting, gathering, and foraging – this meant steady movement throughout the day.

Although they got plenty of rest, they also had to walk a lot, build things, climb trees, and sometimes even sprint.  In other words, people had to move in order to find food or they died.  These days your average person goes to work, sits at a desk for 8 hours, drives home, sits on the couch for some TV, and eats a lot of food in between.

They’ve accumulated significant energy from the food, but haven’t burned any of the calories because they’ve been sedentary.  This has resulted in an obese population and an increase in insomnia due to the fact that people haven’t burned any of the energy (calories) from the food that they’ve consumed.  If you don’t exercise and have insomnia, lack of exercise could certainly be the cause.

Low blood sugar: Most individuals with sleep-maintenance insomnia find that no matter what they do, they keep waking up in the middle of the night.  The root cause in many cases is low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).  If your blood sugar is low throughout the night, various other hormones regulating blood sugars including: glucagon, cortisol, and growth hormone are released.

They stimulate the brain that the body needs food, and you end up waking in the middle of the night.  To prevent waking as a result of low blood sugar, some sources recommend having 1 tablespoon of raw honey prior to sleep.  By having a healthy source of sugar, you stabilize your blood sugars and ultimately get better sleep (assuming hypoglycemia was the cause).

Medical condition: If you have a serious medical condition, it may be a direct cause of your inability to sleep.  Examples of some medical conditions that may cause insomnia include: sinus infections, arthritis, chronic pain, and acid reflux.  If you had one of these medical conditions like chronic pain, you may feel so much pain that it keeps you awake or forces you to wake during the middle of the night.

For this reason it is always important to rule out possible medical conditions that may be contributing to your insomnia.  Get a thorough evaluation and proper treatment for the condition to either reduce and/or overcome your insomnia.

Mental illness: Anyone that suffers from a mental illness has probably dealt with some sort of insomnia.  This insomnia could be related to the imbalances of neurotransmitters and receptors associated with the illness, it could be a result of contributing genetics, or it may be a result of the medication that a person is taking to treat their illness.  Those with anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, depression, or schizophrenia may report significant insomnia.

  • Anxiety: Those with anxiety tend to have an overactive sympathetic nervous system, leading to a perpetual “fight-or-flight” response and an inability to relax. Toning down this overactivity can help curb insomnia.
  • Bipolar disorder: Individuals with bipolar disorder commonly experience insomnia during the “manic” (Type 1) or “hypomanic” (Type 2) phases. In these cases, proper treatment with a mood stabilizer may decrease insomnia.
  • Depression: While depression is sometimes associated with hypersomnia (too much sleep), insomnia is also common. The insomnia may be caused by suicidal thoughts, circadian rhythm disruptions, or a person feeling overwhelmed by their depression.
  • Schizophrenia: In various types of schizophrenia, a person may experience dopamine surges that lead to paranoia and/or hallucinations. If left untreated, these dopaminergic chaos may result in chronic insomnia.

In some cases, the insomnia may be specifically related to a phase of the illness such as mania in bipolar disorder.  In other cases it could be a result of improper or insufficient treatment for a particular condition like anxiety disorder.  If you have a mental illness, it is important to work with a professional and determine an optimal strategy for combating your insomnia.

Neurodegenerative diseases: Those diagnosed with neurodegenerative diseases commonly experience insomnia and broken sleep.  These diseases are characterized by alterations in neurotransmission, brain volume loss, and functional impairment.  In some cases the insomnia is a direct result of the neurodegenerative pathology, while in other cases it may be a result of a medication, or even a combination of the pathology and medication.

Due to the fact that there are differences between types of neurodegenerative diseases (e.g. Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s), specific treatment should be administered for insomnia based on the disease.  Prior to intervention with a pharmaceutical, behavioral modification, bright light therapy, and other natural options should be pursued.

Neurotransmission: Abnormalities in neurotransmission can be a direct cause of insomnia.  A couple of popularized neurotransmitters that come to mind when discussing insomnia include: dopamine and serotonin.  If a person is taking medications and/or drugs that affect levels of these neurotransmitters, they may find themselves unable to sleep at night.

  • High dopamine: If you have high dopamine levels, you feel stimulated and psychomotor activity increases. You can think quickly and may feel energetic, both impairing your natural ability to “wind down” for sleep.
  • Low serotonin: If you have low serotonin levels, your body may not be producing sufficient amounts of melatonin. Melatonin is a sleep-inducing hormone that is created from 5-HT (serotonin).  This is why individuals with “low serotonin” as a result of SSRI withdrawal end up experiencing insomnia.

There are more neurotransmitters to consider besides just dopamine and serotonin.  Too much norepinephrine or epinephrine could also cause an inability to sleep.  Abnormal activity of GABAergic neurotransmitters may also lead to insomnia.  Balancing neurotransmitters can be complicated, but supplements and possibly pharmaceuticals may be beneficial for some.

Nicotine: If you use any substance that contains nicotine, particularly late in the day, you may end up experiencing insomnia.  Those that smoke cigarettes, use chewing tobacco, or even nicotine patches may end up with insomnia as a result.  This substance is stimulatory and the more nicotine you ingest, the greater (potential) compounding of your insomnia.

It can take a serious effort to stop smoking cigarettes and go through the various stages of nicotine withdrawal, but it may be worth it to improve your ability to get sleep.  For those that cannot seem to kick the habit, try to at least avoid nicotine in the latter half of the day to decrease likelihood of insomnia.

Pharmaceutical drugs: Many types of prescription drugs can cause insomnia, including antidepressants, psychostimulants, cholinesterase inhibitors, and even statins (used to treat high cholesterol).  Using statins as an example, many cause muscle pain as a side effect, which leads to an inability to fall asleep.  Many ADHD medications such as Adderall, Vyvanse, and Ritalin can lead to insomnia, especially when taken at high dosages or later in the day.

If you notice that you developed insomnia after taking a prescription drug, it’s likely a side effect.  Even if it’s not a side effect, the drug is altering your individual physiology and potentially disrupting your homeostatic circadian rhythm.  You may want to consider pursuing other treatment options if insomnia becomes a problematic side effect from a pharmaceutical drug.

Poor sleep hygiene: In many cases, insomnia can be chalked up to a lack of conscientiousness regarding sleep habits.  This is common among college students going through a phase (e.g. “YOLO”) where they stay up all night to party, socialize, or just hang out at the dorms.  They may not care as much about their sleep or make an effort to sleep at a reasonable time each night because most of their classmates are staying up late or pulling “all-nighters.”

If you aren’t making a conscious effort to maintain a somewhat strict sleep schedule or engaging in behaviors that facilitate the transition from wakefulness to sleep (e.g. relaxation exercises), insomnia may be self-induced.  To avoid causing your own insomnia, make an effort to correct the (potentially) causative behaviors (e.g. using electronics before bed).

Pregnancy: It is estimated that nearly 80% of pregnant women experience insomnia.  This insomnia may be a result of pregnancy-induced stress and other hormone changes.  Additionally, when a woman is pregnant, she may: find it difficult to get comfortable in bed, experience cramps, need to use the bathroom, or become anxious about the baby.

All of these factors can lead to insomnia, making it very challenging for some women to get sleep.  That said, everything should be done in their power to get optimal sleep such as eating a healthy diet, avoiding stimulants, and engaging in relaxation rituals before bed.

Sleep disorders: Those with sleep disorders commonly complain of insomnia.  If left untreated, the sleep disorder may interfere with a person’s life to the point that their psychological, cognitive, and physical health deteriorate.  If you have a sleep disorder or suspect that you may have one, working with a sleep expert is your best bet.  A sleep expert will tell you how your sleep quality can be improved via behavioral modifications and possible medications.

Stress: There are many potential causes of stress, it could be from work, could be from family, could be due to a midlife crisis, etc.  Regardless of the cause, the stress experienced will change your body’s hormone production and neurotransmission – leading to poor sleep and possibly insomnia. Obviously the severity of the stress will likely influence the severity of the insomnia.

If you are under serious pressure at your job, are going through a break-up, or are facing some sort of trauma – stress may be at an all-time high. You may feel adrenaline and cortisol coursing through your body, and find that it’s damn near impossible to sleep.  Make an effort to reduce the stress (e.g. take a vacation) and increase your ability to cope with the stress (e.g. meditation).

Sympathetic overactivation: One specific cause of insomnia is the “fight-or-flight” response.  This is an evolutionary response that served to protect humans when they were faced with danger and/or a predator.  In these situations, the body surges with adrenaline, allowing the person to think quickly on their feet, sprint, and perform other superhuman feats to ensure their survival.

The problem with sympathetic overactivation is that the effects of the parasympathetic nervous system become suppressed, leading to feelings of stress and danger.  Many people with insomnia haven’t worked to reduce activity in their sympathetic nervous system by engaging in relaxation-inducing activities such as meditation or deep breathing.

Trauma: Anyone that has dealt with past trauma or suffers from PTSD knows first-hand how debilitating insomnia can get.  I’ve personally suffered from PTSD and it threw my circadian rhythm out of homeostasis for an extremely long-term; I’d estimate approximately 8 years.  It took several years of conscious, hard-work to restore my body’s natural “rhythm” and to overcome the trauma.

After the traumatic experience, your nervous system feels shocked – literally like it was jolted with lightning.  You may only get an hour or two of sleep per night, you feel adrenaline surges throughout the day, your thoughts are chaotic and rapid, you become depersonalized, and feel as if you’re going insane (bonkers).  Without proper intervention (either pharmaceutical, relaxation, and/or psychotherapy), insomnia can wreak havoc upon those with PTSD.

Note: Insomnia may be caused by a multitude of the aforementioned factors (e.g. mental illness and medication) or may be a result of one specific cause (e.g. trauma).  If you know of another cause for insomnia that wasn’t listed, be sure to share it in the comments section.

My Experience with Chronic Insomnia

I dealt with chronic insomnia for years, starting my junior year of high-school, and lasting throughout my entire college career.  In fact, my insomnia persisted for about 2 years after college – so it ran for a period of about 6 years straight.  I knew some of the potential causes of insomnia such as an overactive sympathetic nervous system, using stimulants in the afternoon, and emotional distress.

However, I was clueless to the fact that sleeping with my cell phone in my bed was radiating 3G and Wi-Fi, which may have destroyed my sleep quality.  I was also exercising in the latter half of the day, eating meals late at night, and had bright lights on late at night.  Plus I was glued to my computer, engaging in meaningless web-browsing right before bed.

I’m surprised I didn’t explode from all of the late night stimulation.  It took a highly conscious effort to gradually eradicate each of my bad habits, and finally axe out each cause one-by-one.  I wasn’t able to do this overnight, but over the past 2 years, I’ve successfully overcome my insomnia to the point that I am now able to fall asleep at night without any problem.

The changes themselves were easy, but it took an effort to avoid falling into the same old trap.  I shifted my workouts to the morning, invested in light-blocking curtains, avoided computer and cell phones before bed, turned my phone on airplane mode, used the emWave2, overcame PTSD, overcame adrenaline addiction, and after several years – I’m finally back to sleeping well.

Have you pinpointed the cause of your insomnia?

If you suffer from insomnia, have you been able to pinpoint the specific cause?  In many cases people that aren’t able to determine the specific cause of their insomnia simply lack awareness.  Individuals taking stimulant medications, drinking caffeine in the afternoon, exercising late at night, or sleeping with cell phones radiating next to their head have obvious causes for their insomnia, but so many people aren’t educated in regards to sleep.

Your average person sleeps with their cell phone turned on, some with it under their pillow – blasting their brains with radiation for the entire night; it’s no wonder they get broken sleep.  Others stay on their computer, watch bright TV screens, or eat late at night, yet they wonder why they have insomnia.  For certain people insomnia is a lack of self-awareness, yet for others it’s a result of simply not putting forth a formidable effort to overcome the insomnia.

Many people know that certain things are causing their insomnia such as drinking coffee in the afternoon, yet they don’t care to stop the activity.  To them the short-term pleasure from a particular activity is worth more than the long-term health associated with a good night’s sleep.  If they realized how much their insomnia was hampering their performance and/or health over time, they may be more motivated to make necessary changes to their routine.

A less common subset of the population is highly self-aware and is doing everything in their power to eradicate insomnia (e.g. blue-light blocking glasses towards night), but still cannot figure out a way to get past insomnia.  In most of these cases, it’s a matter of toning down beta brain waves and overactivation of the sympathetic nervous system.  In other words, the person needs to beef up their body’s natural ability to relax.

If you remain befuddled regarding the specific cause of your insomnia, it may help to work with a sleep expert and psychotherapist.  The sleep expert will tell you exactly what’s going on with your sleep and help rule out any sleep disorders that you may have.  Furthermore, they’ll likely make suggestions of behavioral changes you can make to improve your sleep quality.

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