Got A Minute? Insomnia Has Many Causes

By on September 16, 2011

“You’re getting very sleepy.” Those words that are attributed to old-time hypnotists would be music to the ears of someone who suffers from insomnia. Nighttime wakefulness, the inability to go to sleep or waking too early in the morning are constant companions to tens of millions of Americans, making them less able to function at top capacity during the day.

Last week’s column gave readers an overview of insomnia. This week, the topic will be who is at risk and some of the more common causes of this tiresome nighttime condition.

Some conditions make a person more prone to insomnia. A few are factors that can’t be changed, others can be. Women tend to suffer from insomnia more than men and often, hormones are to blame. The menstrual cycle and menopausal changes can trigger some sleepless nights.

Those over the age of 60 tend to suffer from insomnia more frequently than those in other age groups. Mental health disorders can also increase the likelihood that a person will be affected by night time wakefulness. Anxiety, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder can all disrupt sleep. Depression is commonly marked by early morning awakening.

Stress can be blamed for countless physical symptoms, and insomnia is on that list. Sometimes the sleep disturbance is temporary, but if the stress continues for a period of time, the insomnia follows right along the same path. Interestingly, being poor or unemployed increases a person’s chances of suffering from insomnia. Working changing shifts or night shifts can be a risk factor for insomnia, as well as frequent travel across time zones.

There are several fairly common physical conditions that can keep a person from getting to sleep or staying asleep. One of these is sleep apnea, characterized by loud snoring, alternating with periods of time where there is no breathing at all. When the body gets deprived of oxygen, breathing will begin again, sometimes abruptly enough to awaken the sleeper many times during the night. Whether the person wakes up or not in the cycle of this disordered breathing, sleep is disrupted and the person may suffer the daytime effects of a lack of sleep.

Restless leg syndrome can keep a person from getting to sleep, wake them in the night, or both. This condition causes a tingling, crawling, burning or just plain very uncomfortable feeling in the legs or sometimes arms after periods of sitting or lying down, hence the insomnia connection.

Any type of chronic pain like arthritis can be a factor in how well a person sleeps. Other conditions including cancer, gastrointestinal reflux disease, heart failure, frequent nighttime urination, lung disease, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease can cause insomnia. Some of these illnesses can be treated to relieve the symptoms which will help improve the quality of sleep.

The side effects of certain medications can cause a person to lose sleep or sleep poorly. Antidepressants, heart and blood pressure medications, allergy remedies, stimulants and corticosteroids can all play a part in sleep quality. Over the counter meds, including some cold and allergy products, pain killers and weight-loss aids, can be the culprit in sleep issues.

Most people know that caffeinated drinks can keep one from sleeping well, but some people don’t realize how much caffeine is contained in soda and some other choices like sports drinks and bottled teas. The stimulant effect of nicotine can cause insomnia, as can alcohol, which is surprising to some. Alcohol can initially make one drowsy, but can also disrupt normal sleep patterns, causing early-morning wakefulness.

Eating too much late in the evening, especially for those with heartburn or GERD, can be a clear path to a sleepless night. Either refraining from eating for a few hours before going to bed or keeping intake to a light snack can help prevent this from happening.

Source: Pam Maxson, Genesee Country Express

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