Insomnia Causes
Why you can't fall asleep

Most insomnia causes are manifestations of other underlying problems. Which means that in circumstances like pain from a disease or ailment, or the use of a substance this can cause insomnia

insomnia causes

The most common insomnia causes


Stress can have many sources, like the death or illness of someone you love, divorce, problems at work or school, losing your job, concerns about your health or family, economic problems, unsatisfactory sex life. All these things can keep your mind pretty occupied, even enough to keep you from sleeping


All kinds of everyday anxieties and even more serious anxiety disorders can keep you from sleeping


Depression can work two ways, or you sleep too much or you have a hard time catching some serious sleep. Waking up too early and not being able to go back to sleep is a schoolbook symptom of depression. Insomnia often also goes together with other mental health disorders


All kinds of prescription drugs can hold you back from a good night's sleep. Drugs like some antibiotics, antidepressants, stimulants (like Ritalin), heart and blood pressure medications, allergy medications etc. A lot of over the counter medications also contain stimulants like caffeine etc

Caffeine, alcohol and nicotine

Drinks like coffee, tea, cola and other caffeinated drinks contain stimulants. If you have trouble falling asleep at night think about that cup of coffee in the afternoon, it could be the guilty party

Most people think that alcohol makes you drop like a log and makes you sleep very deep. Although it might initially help you to fall asleep, it also keeps you from reaching the deeper stages of sleep and wakes you up in the middle of the night

Hormonal changes

Women suffer from this when they have a hormonal shift just before menstruation and during menopause. Also a lot of women say they have sleeping problems during perimenopause, this is the period leading up to menopause

During menopause, women experience hot flashes and night sweats, these often can ruin your sleep. When women have past the menopause period they lack estrogen and this can also cause sleep difficulties

In pregnant women this hormonal shift is one of the insomnia causes they can suffer from, causing them sleepless nights

Medical conditions

Frequent urinating, chronic pain or breathing difficulties can also lead to insomnia. There are some conditions closely linked with it like diabetes, arthritis, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), lung disease, congestive heart failure, stroke, cancer, overactive thyroid, Parkinson and Alzheimer's disease

If you treat these medical conditions in a proper way it might just be that you fix the insomnia causes that were keeping you up

Shift changes

Working shifts and especially rotating early and late shifts can seriously disrupt your circadian rhythm or internal clock, which could lead to sleeping difficulties

Change in environment

(Long distance) travel does the same thing in the form of a jet lag or simply the change in environment keeps you from catching sleep

Poor sleep hygiene

"Sleep hygiene" is a group of habits that can normally help you to have a good night's rest. Poor sleep hygiene on the other hand prevents this.

This includes too much stimulating activities before you go to bed (and NO, sex is not one of these, sex before sleep is good…) an irregular sleep schedule; a sleep environment with too much light or noise or distractions or which is too hot or too cold; and the use of your bed for working, reading, hobbies, watching TV, basically all activities other than sleep or sex

A few of these are very frequent insomnia causes but they can relatively easily be fixed

"Learned" insomnia

When you try too hard to fall asleep and start concentrating and worrying a bit too much about not being able to sleep you might just achieve exactly that…not falling asleep. People who suffer from this sleep best in a different environment that normal and when they don't try to sleep like when reading or watching TV

Late night food

A light snack before you go to bed is perfectly OK, but eating too much may make you feel physically uncomfortable when you lie down in bed. Or you can get heartburn where your stomach acid flows up and causes discomfort

All these can be one of the insomnia causes and can make it very difficult for you to fall asleep


When you're older than 60 the changing sleep patterns over the years may cause the increase of insomnia. Almost 50% of all older people suffer from insomnia

Many people think that the older you get the less sleep you need. This is not true, it does become more difficult to sleep for longer periods of time, but the need for enough sleep still stays

High altitude

Some people suffer from insomnia because of the high altitude like in mountains


People who are in a withdrawal process from alcohol, drugs, sedatives or other stimulants can also experience insomnia

Obstructive sleep apnea

People with obstructive sleep apnea can keep themselves or their bed partner from a decent night's rest

Want to know more about insomnia?

If you want to know more about symptoms a quick fix to get you to sleep or a long term cure, check our other insomnia pages

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If you'd like to dig deeper into insomnia information, please try the insomnia page or try the insomnia section

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