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module menu icon Understanding the problem: insomnia

Understanding the problem: insomnia 

Insomnia is defined as regular unsatisfactory sleep. This may mean that sleep is insufficient or of poor quality due to factors such as difficulty falling asleep, being unable to stay asleep or waking early. More women suffer than men, but the incidence increases in both sexes with age. Insomnia can be classed as short-term (less than four weeks) or long-term/persistent (longer than four weeks).  

Common causes of insomnia include: 

  • Stress and/or anxiety: this can be related to numerous factors, including work, financial worries or health concerns
  • Poor sleep hygiene: for example, using electronic devices in bed, eating or drinking too late in the evening, smoking
  • Poor sleep environment: for example, the room is noisy, too light or the incorrect temperature
  • Medical conditions: bronchitis, asthma, angina, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), acid reflux, headache, arthritis, incontinence and nocturia (getting up in the night to pass urine), thyroid problems and the menopause can all affect sleep. In addition, there is a recognised link between insomnia and mental health conditions such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia
  • Medication and other substances: prescribed medicines including antidepressants, epilepsy medication, corticosteroids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and some blood pressure treatments can all negatively impact sleep, as can alcohol, caffeine and nicotine
  • Jet lag and shift work: both of these affect the body’s internal clock (circadian rhythms) that signals to the body when to stay awake and when to sleep.