Insomnia: What You Should Know When You Can’t Sleep

What is Insomnia?

Insomnia is the difficulty of falling asleep even when a person has a chance to do so. People suffering from insomnia feel dissatisfied with their sleep or experience low energy, mood disturbance, fatigue, decreased performance in work or difficulty in concentration. You can either suffer from chronic insomnia or acute insomnia. Reading next parts to understand deeply about insomnia causes, symptoms as well as insomnia treatment guidelines.

Insomnia Causes


what causes insomnia

Too much concern about school, work, family or health can keep your mind active during the night, making it difficult to get a geed night’s sleep. Also, the occurrence of stressful events such as illness or death of a loved one, loss of the job can all lead to insomnia.


Everyday anxieties and more serious anxiety disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder may lead to disruption of sleep. Worrying about being able to go to sleep can make it even harder fall asleep.


This can either lead to having too much sleep or having trouble sleeping. Insomnia can occur with other mental health conditions such as schizophrenia or bipolar.

Medical Conditions

Some of the conditions that have been linked to insomnia include lung disease, arthritis, heart failure, overactive thyroid, and stroke, gastro esophageal reflux disease (GERD), Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease. If you also have chronic pain, need to urinate a lot or breathing difficulties, you may also develop insomnia.

Change in Environmental or Work Schedule

insomnia causes

Working late at night or very early in the morning or travel can disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm, making it hard to sleep. The circadian rhythm acts as an internal clock which guides such things as sleep and wake cycle, body temperature and metabolism

Caffeine, Nicotine and Alcohol

Drinks that contain caffeine, such as tea, coffee or cola are known to be stimulants. Taking too much of these products in the late afternoon can keep you from falling asleep. Nicotine and tobacco products are also stimulants. Alcohol is a sedative that may help fall asleep, but can cause awakening in the middle of the sleep.

Poor Sleeping Habits

These activities are such as stimulating activities before bedtime, uncomfortable sleeping environment, irregular sleep schedule or using the bed for other activities rather than sleep.


Some antidepressants, heart and blood pressure medications, allergy medications, stimulants and corticosteroids can interfere with sleep- including some pain medications and weight loss products.

Eating Too Much in the Late Evening

Having a snack before bedtime is okay, but eating too much can lead to physical discomfort during the night such as heartburn, back-flow of food and acid which leads to sleep disruption.

What are the Symptoms of Insomnia?

  • Difficulty falling asleep at night
  • Difficulty paying attention, focusing on tasks or remembering
  • Awakening during the night
  • Tension headaches
  • Awakening too early
  • Not feeling well rested after a night's sleep
  • Irritability, depression or anxiety
  • Daytime tiredness or sleepiness
  • Ongoing worries about sleep
  • Increased errors or accidents
  • Distress in the stomach and intestines (gastrointestinal tract)
  • One who is suffering from insomnia will take more than thirty minutes to fall asleep and may only get six hours or less to sleep in three or more nights in a week for a period of a month or more.

Insomnia Treatment Guidelines - How to Improve Your Sleep

Lifestyle Changes

insomnia treatment

Exercise and Stay Active: Being active during the day helps to promote good sleep at night. Take at least 20-30 minutes of vigorous exercise daily five to six hours before bedtime.

Check your medication: Check labels on over the counter drugs to see if there have caffeine or stimulants. For medication that is given by the doctor check with him or her if they are the ones causing insomnia.

Limit naps: Taking naps during the day will make it difficult to sleep during the night. If you can’t go without a nap, limit it to thirty minutes and take it not later than 3 p.m.

Avoid or limit caffeine, alcohol and do not use nicotine: All these make it hard to sleep. Avoid caffeine after lunch meals and take less of alcoholic beverages.

Do not put up with pain: If you have a painful condition that bother you, make sure you have pain relievers that will control the pain.

Have a sleep schedule: Have a consistent wake and bed time day to day and even during weekends.

During Bedtime

Avoid eating or drinking large meals and beverages before bed. Take a light snack or a cup of herbal tea instead. Drink less before going to sleep to avoid urinating often throughout the night.

Use your bed for sleep and sex only. Do not read or work while in bed. Avoid TV and video games or phones in bed.

Make your bedroom comfortable for sleep. And always find a way to relax in bed. This can be done by taking a warm bathe before bedtime or a massage to create that relaxing mood.

Maintain a Healthy Diet

healthy diet for insomnia treatment

Avoid all foods with stimulant properties such as:

Caffeine: In tea, cola, coffee, dark chocolate. Caffeine is the most known stimulants that are food based. Giving up coffee and chocolate is rough, but for a person suffering from insomnia not giving up is a form of addiction or denial.

Sugar: In desserts, sweet sauces, baked goods and much more. Sugar and especially refined sugars play around with blood glucose levels leading to highs and lows that affect the nervous system. For a person suffering from insomnia, such sugars should be avoided since their blood sugar should be stabilized.

Excessive protein: Mainly in soy-based meat substitute and meat. Too much protein leads to stressing the digestive system as well as the elimination system. This can keep you awake during the night.

Excessive sodium: In fast foods. Processed foods or any food you add a lot of salt or soy sauce. Too much sodium leads to high blood pressure. You need lowered blood pressure for a good sleep. This is crucial for people suffering from insomnia.

Sleeping Products

Memory Foam Pillow

Sleep Innovations Contour Memory Foam Pillow, Standard Size


This pillow is very comfortable and it helps rest healthfully. It reduces pressure on the head and neck and gives a deep restorative sleep.

Cool or Heated Mattress Pad

Shield Life Cool Pad


Cooling or Heating Mattress Pads have radiant heat from below that relaxes tired backs and legs. This will induce restful sleep all night long. For a person suffering from insomnia this will come in handy.

White Noise Machine

LectroFan - White Noise Machine with 10 Fan and 10 White Noise Options


This machine encourages deep sleep that can help to cure insomnia. It acts as a sleeping aid by calming the mood to help one relax and fall asleep.


Sleeping Tablets

These are also known as hypnotics and they are used to encourage sleep. They are used when you have severe insomnia or as a temporary feature to ease short term insomnia.


These are prescriptions that are used to promote calmness, relaxation, sleep and reduce anxiety. They can be prescribed for severe insomnia or in the event that it is causing distress.


They work similar as the benzodiazepines. They are prescribed for a maximum of two to four weeks since they can be less effective if used over time.

Melatonin (Circadin)

These are for adults who are 55 years old and over. They are used to relieve insomnia for a few weeks. They have a naturally occurring hormone that regulates the sleep cycle. It is usually recommended for three weeks, but can be used for up to 13 weeks.

  • Jane
  • Updated October 30, 2016

I am Jane Collins, a Founder and a Main Editor of I decided to create this site to share my knowledge, guides and tips to help you to have a good night's sleep.

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