Why You Can’t Sleep

There are two different kinds of insomnia: primary and secondary, although secondary is the most common. If you have trouble sleeping, you may be experiencing secondary insomnia, which is called “secondary” because it’s actually a symptom of another problem. Let’s look at some of the causes of secondary insomnia.

What is Insomnia?
First, let’s discuss the symptoms of insomnia itself. For some, insomnia means trouble falling asleep; for others, it means waking up too soon. Or, it could involve both.

The end result is that the condition affects your quality of sleep, leaving you feeling excessively tired and with low energy throughout the day. If you’re experiencing insomnia, you may also be irritable, depressed, distracted or forgetful.

Insomnia symptoms can range from mild to severe, with the condition being considered chronic once you’ve experienced symptoms for a minimum of three nights per week for over a month.

Secondary insomnia can be triggered by many different things, but some of the most common include emotional issues, medical problems, certain substances, and a person’s environment or lifestyle.

Emotional
People who deal with a lot of stress, suffer from depression or anxiety, or are suffering from another type of emotional or mental health-related problem are at a higher risk for insomnia.

Medical
There are a variety of medical conditions that interfere with a person’s sleep. Some are already sleep-related (such as restless legs syndrome), while others cause pain so distracting that sleep becomes difficult — for example, arthritis, headaches, asthma, arrhythmia, gastrointestinal disorders and others.

Substances
Certain medications, chemicals and even foods can affect your quality of sleep. Stimulants such as caffeine are not recommended before bedtime, since they can keep your nervous system in an extended state of excitement.

On the other end of the spectrum, alcohol and other sedatives, though capable of making you feel drowsy, do not allow your body to experience a true sleep. This is why it’s possible to nod off after a few alcoholic drinks and yet wake up feeling tired.

Certain asthma medications, beta blockers (for the treatment of heart conditions) and some allergy and cold medications are also known to inhibit sleep.

Lifestyle
Working long hours or working overnight can also cause insomnia, as it contradicts your body’s natural circadian rhythms. Traveling can also affect sleep quality, especially if you travel across multiple time zones; this can result in the lethargy known as jet lag.

Image via Timothy Krause on Flickr