Symptoms and Causes of Sleep Deprivation and Insomnia

Most people have suffered with at least a short term bout of insomnia at some stage in their lives. However, some of those may be more prone to either transient or long term, chronic insomnia. There are several causes of insomnia that can be attributed to various conditions.

Stress, Anxiety, and Depression

The undisputed number one cause of insomnia is excessive stress, anxiety, and depression. Almost everyone has experienced transient insomnia the night before a job interview, big presentation, wedding, or other significant personal event. Transient insomnia usually passes after the stress-inducing event has passed.

Chronic insomnia, on the other hand, is a much more serious condition because it can affect an individual for an extended period of time. Persistent stress at work or home can lead to chronic insomnia, as can anxiety and depression.

One of the most common causes of chronic insomnia is the presence of one or more sleep disorders. Sleep disorders can severely disrupt sleep patterns and interfere with an individual’s quality of life.

What is Insomnia - Diagnosis and Treatments

Sleep Apnea

A person with sleep apnea will stop breathing several times during the course of a night’s sleep. The pauses in breathing last about ten seconds, and can occur up to 30 times a night.

A person with sleep apnea may not be aware of their condition. But the cumulative effect of waking up several times a night can cause them to lose sleep, leading many sleep apnea patients, albeit wrongly, to conclude they are suffering from chronic insomnia.

Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless leg syndrome is another sleep disorder that can cause severe chronic insomnia. Individuals with restless leg syndrome will experience crawling sensations on their limbs, especially their calves and ankles. The symptoms of restless leg syndrome become magnified during long periods of inactivity, so sufferers will usually experience the majority of symptoms during the night. Individuals with restless leg syndrome can have a difficult time falling and staying asleep, and may experience significant discomfort. People with restless leg syndrome often experience involuntary jerking of their legs during the course of the night. It’s no surprise that restless leg syndrome often causes chronic insomnia and daytime fatigue.

Environmental Disturbances

Environmental factors such as light, noise, temperature, and partner’s sleep habits can severely disrupt the quantity and quality of sleep. Excessive light at night has been shown to disrupt sleep. Very bright artificial light should be avoided, and sensitive sleepers should even avoid dim artificial lighting. Insomnia has also been linked to lack of sufficient light during the day. Studies have shown that individuals who expose themselves to bright daylight may suffer from significantly less sleep disturbances than those who do not get bright daylight.

Noise can obviously also adversely affect a person’s ability to get restful sleep. People who live near busy city streets or next to noisy businesses or neighbours may have difficulty achieving a good night’s rest. A sleep environment that is either too warm or too cold is another common cause of insomnia. It is recommended that individuals suffering from chronic insomnia experiment with the temperature of their sleeping area until they find the most comfortable sleep setting.

Another common environmental factor that can lead to insomnia has to do with the sleeping arrangements and sleeping partners. A partner’s sleeping habits can have a detrimental effect on their bedmate’s ability to achieve a restful night’s sleep. Loud snoring, tossing, and other nighttime habits can alter significantly the amount and quality of a person’s sleep. For instance, if one person enjoys watching television in bed or reading before bed, the other person’s ability to fall asleep easily and to remain asleep may become compromised.

Overuse of Alcohol, Stimulants, and Sleeping Pills

The consumption of alcohol, stimulants, and overuse of sleeping aids has been linked to insomnia. Alcohol should be avoided several hours before bedtime. Stimulants such as caffeine and cigarettes should also be avoided. Research has shown that the overuse of sleeping pills can also compromise their ability to be effective, and lead to chronic insomnia.

Chronic Medical Conditions

The presence of a chronic medical condition, such as arthritis, kidney problems, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease as well as many other medical conditions have been shown to cause insomnia. Medical conditions that cause pain, such as arthritis and kidney disorders and be the cause of insomnia, whilst at other times the insomnia may be triggered by medications used to control a particular medical condition.