The Possible Causes of Chronic Insomnia

Chronic insomnia is a complex medical condition, often resulting from a number of factors. Underlying mental or physical disorders can trigger chronic insomnia.

Depression most commonly causes chronic insomnia. Other mental disorders like chronic anxiety and bipolar (manic) depression also cause chronic insomnia. It has been found that about 70% of people diagnosed with depression experience insomnia. Depressed people tend to have abnormal levels of stress hormones. These abnormalities can impair sleep. It should be noted, though, that emotional/mental problems can be caused by insomnia, which is why it can be difficult to determine if the insomnia triggered the emotional/mental problem or the emotional/mental problem triggered the insomnia.

Arthritis, allergies, heart failure, hypertension, kidney disease, sleep apnea, asthma, restless legs syndrome, narcolepsy, hyperthyroidism, Alzheimer’s disease, ADHD and Parkinson’s disease have also been found to be the underlying causes of chronic insomnia.

However, physical and mental disorders are not the only things that may cause chronic insomnia. Behavioral factors such as addiction to caffeine, alcohol and other substances, disrupted sleep/wake cycles and chronic stress can cause chronic insomnia.

In women, hormone fluctuations can significantly impair sleep. It is known that progesterone aids in sleeping. During menstruation, progesterone levels go down, causing insomnia. During ovulation, progesterone levels go up, causing sleepiness. During the first and third trimester, pregnant women will experience abnormal drops and rises in progesterone levels, resulting to disrupted sleep patterns, which can eventually develop into chronic insomnia.

Women who are in the first phase of their menopause can also develop chronic insomnia because the the extreme fluctuations in hormone levels. The common symptoms of menopause are hot flashes, anxiety and sweating, and these frequently occur at night during sleep. Women who are in the menopausal stage may also be experiencing psychological distress, triggering insomnia.

As we age, surges of growth hormone (a substance associated with sleep) become blunted. Levels of major stress hormone, cortisol, have been observed to increase in older people in some studies, but results are not yet conclusive. Levels of melatonin, a hormone that is produced by the pineal gland and is linked with sleep, are found to not decrease as a person gets older.

Children whose bedtime schedules are not being regulated by parents tend to develop mild or occasional insomnia. However, a child’s temperament has been found to be directly linked to serious sleep disturbances and insomnia. For instance, children who were intense, high-strung and easily upset were found to have sleep problems than children who do not have such temperament. However, the study did not test if the traits could have been triggered by problems in the home (e.g., parental depression or marital discord).

Sarah Walker is a health and fitness enthusiast. She currently runs a website helping people with Insomnia. To find out more information and help, go to http://insomniasymptoms.org