What Is Insomnia?

When we sleep and wake up in the morning not feeling rested, then this can be called insomnia. It is a sleep disorder and requires treatment. Any kind of sleeplessness where there is difficulty in remaining asleep or where there is disturbed sleep caused because of frequent waking up can also be referred to as insomnia. People with insomnia have the following symptoms, such as difficulty falling asleep, waking up frequently at night, and having trouble going back to sleep. The definition of the oft-asked questions is discussed below.

Image Source: Shutterstock

What Is Acute Insomnia?

Acute insomnia depends on the number of times it occurs and also on the number of hours, we are able to sleep. This can occur either for one or two nights or else it could be for a few weeks.

What Is Chronic Insomnia?

Chronic insomnia is when insomnia can last for a long time. There can even be times when there are no sleep issues. It is chronic insomnia when insomnia remains for at least three nights in a week, or for a month and longer.

Causes Of Insomnia:

Insomnia may maybe a result of psychological as well as medical causes:

1. Anxiety:

When one is stressed out and anxious, that could be one of the prime causes of sleeplessness. Being anxious can hamper the quality of one’s sleep. Stress also plays a vital part in spoiling a person’s sleep.

2. Stress:

There may be stressful events that can cause temporary insomnia. This kind of insomnia due to stress is long-lasting and can lead to chronic insomnia. This can occur when you do not have a regular sleep schedule. It affects especially those who are changing shifts at work or travelling, which can disrupt the sleep-wake cycle.

3. Allergies:

Allergic symptoms could also be what causes a lack of sleep at night and can result in significant daytime sleepiness and tiredness. Sleep issues are found in people who suffer from allergic rhinitis. One study reveals that sleep is impaired by allergic symptoms, and the degree of impairment is related to the severity of the allergic symptoms.

See Also: Treating Insomnia With Natural Remedies At Home

4. Depression:

Insomnia caused by depression may normally lead to sleep problems. These problems of not sleeping well and throughout the night can also lead to other issues like depressive disorders. Thus it is possible that insomnia can also lead to depression.

5. Can Iron Deficiency Cause Insomnia?

People who have an iron deficiency can sometimes end up with not having proper sleep at night. These people, due to sufficient sleep wake up feeling tired and have a feeling of fatigue the whole day.

6. Hormonal Changes:

During perimenopause and after, it is seen that menopause can cause insomnia. A woman’s ovaries slowly decrease the production of estrogen and progesterone which is a sleep-promoting hormone. This can be quite unsettling and may, at times, be the cause of insomnia in females and contribute to the inability to fall asleep.

7. Food:

Certain food choices may be common causes of insomnia during the day did affect sleep such as caffeine, nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and goji, alcohol, sugar, refined carbohydrates, flour, etc. (1)

8. Smoking and Alcohol:

Nicotine is also one of the causes of insomnia. When one smokes near bedtime, it becomes difficult to fall asleep. Alcohol also can upset your sleep and cause you to have disturbed sleep.

9. Caffeine:

Among causes of insomnia in adults, a cup or two of coffee in the morning will not affect most people, but caffeine later in the day can interfere with sleep. (2) Some people will tend to not only experience insomnia but also end up having caffeine side effects like gastrointestinal upset and nervousness.

10. Medications:

There are medications that cause insomnia such as antidepressants, medications for Parkinson’s disease, anticonvulsants, decongestants, cold medicines, steroids, psychostimulants, and amphetamines.

11. Magnesium Deficiency:

Magnesium-causing insomnia is a cause that leads to poor sleep in people with this deficiency. They wake up often and are restless throughout the night.

12. Due To Aging:

The reasons for insomnia in the elderly may be due to ageing issues. When we get older, we find it difficult to fall asleep, and even if we do there is frequent waking up at night. There are also times when we find that ageing people tend to get up early in the morning.

13. Illnesses That Cause Insomnia:

It is said that when we suffer from certain underlying disease conditions, sleep is affected. We either do not sleep, or the sleep is disturbed, leading to waking up tired and fatigued in the morning.

Symptoms Of Insomnia:

1. Early Awakening Insomnia:

This can be seen commonly among elderly people who do not sleep through the night. Some older people end up waking up frequently in the night, and there are some who wake up very early in the morning.

2. Too Much Of Waking Up:

Insomnia causes frequent waking up in the night, and there are cases where there may be symptoms like trouble falling asleep or even waking up several times during the night or early in the morning. Insomnia can occur due to several reasons such as stress, depression, anxiety, poor sleep habits, and taking certain medications.

3. Difficulty Sleeping Due To Insomnia:

Several reasons can cause us to stay awake for more extended periods in the night like anxiety, depression, and sometimes even emotional and psychological triggers like anger, grief, worry, bipolar disorder, and trauma keep us awake.

See Also: How To Get Better Sleep

4. Tired, Not Refreshed:

Normally, a good night’s sleep should leave you feeling rejuvenated, but several reasons could cause you to wake up tired. Reasons like dehydration, and too much caffeine cause insomnia, depression, anxiety, dietary deficiency, anaemia, thyroid problem, etc. can all cause excessive daytime sleepiness.

5. Insomnia And Palpitations:

There are occasions when we lie down to sleep; we experience heart palpitations, and we get the feeling of a steady pulse in the chest, head, or neck. These insomnia symptoms happen when we sleep on the side, and we are more susceptible to heart palpitations because of how the body bends and pressure builds internally.

6. Hyperactive Brain Insomnia:

This occurs when the brain is unable to stop being awake. Chemical reactions tend to affect sleep. There are neurotransmitters in the brain that are connected to sleep and wakefulness. When one is off, the other is switched on; when this cycle is disturbed, it ends in insomnia.

7. Headache Due To Insomnia:

It is generally known that the lack of sleep tends to trigger migraines and headaches in some people. Some sleep disorders like insomnia, sleep apnea, and circadian rhythm disorder are observed in people with headache diagnoses.

8. Insomnia Fatigue:

Fatigue is a well-known experience that most insomniacs experience and are familiar with. They are deprived of sleep and feel tired all the time. Lack of proper sleep makes them tired, and there is excessive daytime sleepiness.

9. Irritated, Depression and Anxiety:

People who are stressed out and suffer from anxiety lack sleep. Their issues make it difficult for them to have a restful sleep. Studies have also shown that anxiety can be caused by to lack of sleep. (3)

How to Prevent Insomnia – Prevention Techniques:

There are several ways to prevent insomnia:

Wake Up At The Same Time:

Try to wake up at the same time every day, even though it is tempting to get up late on weekends.

Elimination Of Caffeine & Alcohol:

Caffeine has a lasting effect for several hours. It causes difficulty in not only initiating sleep but also causes frequent awakenings. Alcohol may leave a sedative effect for a few hours after consumption but can lead to frequent arousals and prevent restful sleep.

Avoid Large Meals:

Eating a large meal just before going to sleep can activate the digestive tract and keep us awake.

Comfortable Sleeping Environment:

Maintain restful surroundings by keeping control over sound, light, and room temperature.

Avoid Stress:

Follow relaxation and deep breathing techniques, which will help you to fall asleep comfortably.

See More: Simple Tips To Avoid Stress

Regular Exercise:

Exercising especially among middle-aged women helps to improve the quality of sleep. (4)

When To Consult Doctor:

When insomnia disorder symptoms last for more than four weeks or begin to interfere with activities of daily living, and if one wakes up frequently during the night and is struggling to breathe, it is better to seek the advice of a medical doctor. Some symptoms like depression and lack of energy could be underlying symptoms of something bigger. Other symptoms such as a new medication disrupting your sleep, lack of appetite, excessive heartburn, and mood changes all warrant a visit to the doctor.

In recent years, public awareness about insomnia symptoms and causes has grown. There are Sleep Disorder Clinics, which can assist you in diagnosing your problem and finding a solution by making adequate lifestyle changes. There are childhood insomnia symptoms that affect children. It is believed that prescription medications and behavioural therapy are more effective than sleep aids for insomniacs!

Disclaimer: This article is not meant to treat insomnia medically, but to create awareness about it. There may be several underlying causes of insomnia. One must always consult a physician for any problems faced regarding poor sleep affecting activities of daily living.


1. Is Insomnia Dangerous?

Even though insomnia is very common among people with busy, hectic schedules, it should not be taken flippantly. People must consult their doctors as some studies do suggest that insomnia could be related to high BP, diabetes, etc. It is safer to approach a doctor if there are frequent occurrences of poor sleep at night.

2. What Are The Negative Effects Of Insomnia?

There are several adverse effects in the form of fatigue, irritability, weight gain, frequent falling sick due to a weak immune system, and elevated blood pressure that can lead to diseases like diabetes and heart disease. Lack of sleep can exacerbate mental illness, including anxiety and depression. It reduces concentration and leads to poor productivity at work. People generally need 7-9 hours of sleep, and there is nothing heroic about bragging that fewer hours of sleep is sufficient.

3. Is It True That Women Suffer From Insomnia More Than Men?

Women are said to suffer more from insomnia rather than men. There are several causes of insomnia in females, and the main culprit for this is hormones. (5) Hormonal changes are experienced by women during their menstrual cycle, and menopause impacts their sleep. Women have night sweats and hot flashes during perimenopause that disturb their sleep. Another disruptor is pregnancy where hormonal and emotional changes affect the quality of sleep. Frequent awakening at night due to physical discomfort and the need to urinate often can cause women to wake up several times at night.


About Saanvi

Saanvi Sharma is an excellent web content writer in health and nutrition. Her expertise in the subject stems from in-depth research and knowledge that she gained over the years. Her interest in science coupled with a bachelor's degree in biotechnology proves as an added advantage and further adds value to her writing. She is highly interested in science, thus writing quality content became her virtue.