What Actually Causes Insomnia, And How To CURE It?


🌙 Written by Kai Riverstone, international lucid dreaming expert and teacher. Learn how to lucid dream in 7 days or less.

Insomnia is actually quite a common sleeping disorder. To put it simply – people who have insomnia have difficulties falling asleep. There are cures, treatments and solutions though as we’ll see.

Once you eventually fall asleep, it’s difficult for your body and brain to stay asleep. You wake up frequently, having trouble falling asleep again.

A common side effect after waking up is fatigue and also a constant feeling of tiredness that you carry all day. During the day, people living with insomnia experience drowsiness, emotional responses, and low energy level.

Why is this so?

Insomnia will sap your energy and healthy, permanently affecting your quality of life and daily performances. But WHY? What’s the cause? 

At some point, a large percentage of the adult population experiences short term insomnia, otherwise known as acute insomnia. In most cases, this lasts for a few days or two-three weeks maximum.

It’s usually a result of overstressing situations or traumatic experiences that you don’t often cope with.

On the other hand, some people experience long term insomnia called chronic insomnia. This type of lasts for several months and can make devastating changes in your organism and biorhythm.

How Can You Know?

Insomnia can be a primary problem or a result of some hidden mental issues, appearing as a symptom.

How to deal with it if it’s not a symptom but the leading cause of problems?

The first thing you should do is check if you really have insomnia so that you can start treating it.

Symptoms of insomnia that everybody can see:

  • Difficulty falling asleep during the night
  • Waking up during the night and not being able to go back to sleep
  • Waking up too early with medium to intense headaches
  • Not feeling rested after sleeping all night
  • Experiencing low energy levels during noon
  • Daytime tiredness or sleepiness
  • Anxiety, irritability, and depression for no specific reason
  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Difficulty focusing on daily tasks takes you more time than usual to do everyday tasks
  • Problems with remembering
  • An increased amount of accidents or errors
  • Ongoing worries about sleep, sleeping becomes something that you stress over

At this point, many people start to panic, think about whether or not they should see a doctor. Although you should definitely see a doctor, you don’t always have to rush it.

Are you wondering when is the best time to see a doctor?

Go through that list of symptoms again and see how many of these things you experience every day. You should see a doctor as soon as possible if your energy levels are at a constant low, and you experience more than two symptoms we mentioned.

You should also see a doctor if you suddenly sleep less than you used to. 

Ask yourself – how long do you usually sleep at night?

There’s a table to help you if you don’t know whether or not you get enough sleep. Here’s the recommended sleeping hours scale based on your age and situation: 

AgeRecommendedMay be appropriateNot recommended


(0-3 months)

14-17 hours11 to 13 hours; or


18 to 19 hours

Less than 11 hours; or 


More than 19 hours



(4-11 months)

12-15 hours10 to 11 hours; or


16 to 18 hours

Less than 10 hours; or 


More than 18 hours



(1-2 years)

11-14 hours9 to 10 hours; or


15 to 16 hours

Less than 9 hours; or 


More than 16 hours

Preschoolers (3-5)10-13 hours8 to 9 hours; or


14 hours

Less than 8 hours; or 


More than 14 hours

School age children (6-13)9-11 hours7 to 8 hours; or


12 hours

Less than 7 hours; or 


More than 12 hours

Teenagers (14-17)8-10 hours7 hours; or


11 hours

Less than 7 hours; or 


More than 11 hours

Younger adults (18-25)7-9 hours6 hours; or


10 to 11 hours

Less than 6 hours; or 


More than 11 hours

Adults (26-64)7-9 hours6 hours; or


10 hours

Less than 6 hours; or 


More than 10 hours

Older adults (65+)7-8 hours5 to 6 hours; or


9 hours

Less than 5 hours; or 


More than 9 hours

What causes insomnia?

Many factors can cause this condition. The main factors are medical condition, psychiatric, intake of specific substances, unhealthy sleeping habits, and some biological factors.

Recently, scientists around the world began calling insomnia a brain condition that occurs when your brain is unable to stop the process and shut down for the night.

Our mind, just like everything else inside our body, has a sleeping and wake cycle that creates rhythm patterns over time.  
When one side is turned on, the other side automatically goes to the off regime.

Insomnia can hit both sides and cause a lack of sleep or no sleep at all. The results are the same – too much brain awakens or, on the other hand, little to none sleeping drive.

Chronic Insomnia

Chronic insomnia has two types of causes – common causes and medical causes.

Chronic insomnia can be triggered by a sudden change in lifestyle, stressful life events, new habits that interrupt sleep, and other similar things. The best way of preventing it from developing and lasting for years is to treat the underlying cause.

Common Causes of Chronic Insomnia

  1. Stress

As you probably know, stress is one of the primary triggers for many illnesses. Any type of concern – for your job, school, and finance – can keep you awake during the night. If this goes on for a while, it can be the first step towards insomnia.

Stressful and traumatic situations such as thinking about death or death of your loved one can lead to this sleeping disorder.

  1. Travel or work schedule

Have you ever heard of an internal clock?

It’s your circadian rhythm that guides the sleep-wake cycle, body temperature, and metabolism.

When you travel from one time zone to another, you disrupt the work of your internal clock. It usually takes quite some time to reverse the clock and adapt to the new time zone.

If you live a busy life and travel a lot, you’re probably changing time zones without preparing your body for it so much. In this case, your biorhythm is at high risk, and you could develop insomnia.

  1. Poor sleeping habits

Many people have poor sleeping habits, so there’s nothing unusual about that. Here’s what we consider poor sleeping habits and some causes:

  • irregular bed time table that makes the sleep-wake cycle impossible to work regularly
  • taking a lot of quick naps during the day will mess with your sleeping needs during the night
  • doing stimulating activities before bed will activate your body, making it harder to fall asleep
  • watching TV before bed, playing video games, and sitting at your computer makes brain active
  • eating before bed can mess up your sleeping, putting your body back in working mode
  • uncomfortable sleeping environment makes it harder to sleep or to fall asleep in the first place
  • smartphones, lamps, and screens make the room lighter and its disrupting night mode

All of these habits, if you do them over a more extended period, can mess with your internal clock.

Also, medical conditions and drugs can cause chronic insomnia. Luckily, this can be treated, but it’s essential that you seek medical help as soon as possible.

Medical conditions that can cause insomnia

  • Nasal/sinus allergies
  • Gastrointestinal problems (reflux)
  • Endocrine problems (hyperthyroidism)
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Neurological conditions (Parkinson’s disease)
  • Chronic pain
  • Severe lower back pain

Medication can also make it difficult for you to fall asleep. In most cases, these are medications for high blood pressure, heart disease, birth control pills, depression, medicines for allergies, and pills for thyroid disease.

Besides, insomnia can be something that will open your eyes to a deeper problem. It can appear as a symptom of another problem that is disrupting your sleeping.

An estimated 10% of the population has restless leg syndrome, and 90% of them discovered it because of insomnia. 

Sleep apnea is another sleeping disorder linked directly to insomnia. Sleeping apnea is a condition when airways become obstructed (partially or entirely) while sleeping. When this happens, the oxygen level drops, causing pauses in breathing.

A person with sleep apnea wakes up briefly and repeatedly during the night. In most cases, this directly leads to insomnia. 

Additional Problems

An anxiety disorder or post-traumatic stress can directly affect your sleeping pattern. Insomnia appears more often with people who suffer from mental health disorders. In this case, insomnia may not go away until the disorder is treated.

Waking up in the middle of the night can be one of the signs of depression, typically discovered with insomnia.

You’re probably wondering if other things can cause insomnia as well.

Did you know that some over-the-counter medication can mess up with your sleeping?

Medications without prescriptions such as some low antidepressants, weight-loss products, supplements that contain caffeine and other stimulants disrupt sleep and can cause insomnia.

These can create addiction and make it more challenging to treat insomnia.

In this case, insomnia can stick with you for years. If untreated, it can even create brain damage for life. 

Medication for chronic pain, cancer, diabetes, asthma, GERD, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and overactive thyroid can mess up your sleeping schedule severely.

Still, having a pill or two might not affect your sleep. What we’re talking about is the long-term use of these medicines.

Of course, there’s always the ever-popular link between insomnia and caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol.

Is it real?

Caffeine drinks and snacks are stimulants, so it may be best to avoid consuming them right before going to bed. Some young people may not feel that this affects their sleep, but it’s definitely going to happen as they grow older.

Nicotine (tobacco products) directly interferes with your sleeping rhythm. Alcohol may help you fall asleep, but that’s just a trick because you’ll probably feel tired regardless of how long you sleep.

All of the above are things that cause disruption of sleep and can lead to insomnia.

Insomnia is also linked to a lot of factors. Continue reading to learn more about how insomnia is linked to other conditions.

Insomnia and Depression

Insomnia has two effects on depression.

It can appear because a person is suffering from depression. Energy levels drop, and you start to feel bad, focusing on insomnia even more.

However, it can also create psychiatric issues when your hormone levels drop due to depression. In this case, it can put you at a considerable risk of further mental health issues and even brain damage.

In both cases, when depression is linked with insomnia, it can worsen the state of mind and body. After some time, insomnia just eats out healthy brain cells unless you treat it appropriately. 

Insomnia and Anxiety

Anxiety is quite common and is so easy to experience throughout the day. The condition feels on negative thoughts and nervousness, interfering with your sleep and causing other issues.

Some of the things that can happen are:

  • Tension
  • Getting caught up in past events
  • Excessive worrying about things that may occur in the future
  • Worrying about possible adverse outcomes
  • Feeling overwhelmed by responsibilities
  • Not being able to cope with responsibilities
  • A general feeling of being revved

Anxiety can make it difficult to fall asleep, which can then trigger insomnia. It can also wake you up several times during the night, making it difficult to fall back asleep.

Both lead to stressful thoughts and create new fears. Anxiety can cause insomnia, causing you to stress even more over the fact that you can’t sleep well. It’s a vicious cycle that nobody can get out of without some professional help.

Insomnia and Aging

Sadly, insomnia is probably going to hit as you age.

You’ll see changes in your sleeping pattern as you grow older. Go back to the recommended sleeping hour table we mentioned earlier in the article. It’s the easiest way to notice the change.

Have you seen how young people can sleep with blasting music while older people need silence to fall asleep?

Also, younger adults struggle to wake up early, while elderly people don’t have a problem with that.

Inevitably, people are different, which means some seniors may struggle with sleeping while others don’t have any problems. It all depends on general health and also anxiety.

In most cases, seniors struggle with sleep because of the many health issues they have. For example, people with chronic back pain or bladder issues may wake up more often during the night. The pain and other issues may keep them awake, which then triggers anxiety and insomnia.

Although none of this seems like enough to keep you awake, it’s important to note that these things usually add up. Seniors rarely ever experience just one of these problems.

Changes in activity can also trigger insomnia. Sitting, resting, and napping all day will most definitely mess with your sleeping. This is especially the case with seniors.

They also take more medication that can make it tricky to fall asleep or stay asleep long enough.

Treatments for insomnia

CBT-I or cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia helps you to eliminate or, if the case is stronger, control negative actions, emotions, and thoughts that keep you awake during the night.

This treatment is more effective than medications, and it’s probably the first thing that your doctor will recommend you. 

How does it work?

It teaches you to control negativity while you recognize and immediately change beliefs that keep you awake.

You have a goal to recognize the thought that triggers bad feelings. You’ll also have to work on changing the circle of thought. Although this doesn’t seem as challenging, it is.

The second part of CBT-I is behavioral and based on good sleep habits and strategies like:

  • Stimulus control therapy: requires you to make rules such as using the bed for sleep and sex only, leaving it if you can’t fall asleep for 20 minutes, go to bed only if you’re exhausted. However, it’s critical that you’re true to yourself when following these rules.
  • Relaxation techniques: generally, productive methods are progressive muscle relaxation and biofeedback and breathing exercises. This helps to control your breathing, heart rate, moods, and tensions, preparing your body and mind for bed.
  • Sleep restriction: requires you to give up on naps, decreasing the time you spend sleeping. It should help to make your body tired so that it needs more sleep during the night. As a result, you’d probably be able to fall asleep more comfortably and faster.
  • Remaining passively awake, a.k.a. paradoxical intention: it’s the opposite of everything that you know about sleeping – go to bed and try the hardest not to fall asleep using different mental activities. This technique is very effective, but it’s hard for most people.
  • Light therapy: light to adjust your internal clock is a well-known and common method.

Insomnia is a severe condition that requires lots of time and effort to treat. Different stages should be dealt with differently. For this reason, it’s best for you to seek medical help from your doctor.

Informing yourself a little is always welcome, but leave it to professionals to actually prescribe medication and suggest treatments.

People fear seeing doctors for insomnia, thinking they can fix it on their own. And while sleeping pills and other things may help a little, it’s not the safest way of achieving the results.

Contrary to popular belief, doctors don’t always go straight for medication. However, long-term insomnia often requires approved drugs such as:

  • Eszopiclone
  • Ramelteon
  • Zaleplon
  • Zolpidem

You can still try home remedies. Using natural ingredients and methods to help yourself is in no way dangerous.

Although this may not fix the issue, it can help with other aspects of your life. Plus, you don’t lose anything by trying natural home remedies.

Some of the things you can try are:

  • Meditation – it’s a popular, natural, and free way of decreasing stress, depression, anxiety, and digestive problems. It’s much simpler than most people think, and you can even use some apps to help you if you’re a beginner.
  • Melatonin – this hormone is naturally created in our bodies to help us sleep better, so you should consider taking a few supplements to gain the same effect.
  • Essential oils – aromatherapy is another old method that can help you to relax and sleep better if you’re stressed.
  • Naturally cure your insomnia: This is an article I wrote with some unusual but very effective methods for curing your insomnia naturally.