Insomnia: Causes, Symptoms, and Natural Remedies

Insomnia: Discover the causes, symptoms, and effective natural remedies to overcome persistent sleeplessness and improve your sleep quality and overall well-being.

Insomnia is a sleep issue that makes falling or staying asleep hard.1 It affects your energy, mood, and how you function daily. In this article, we will look at the causes, symptoms, and natural ways to improve insomnia. You’ll learn tips to overcome sleeplessness and boost the quality of your sleep.

Key Takeaways

  • Insomnia is a sleep disorder that makes it hard to fall or stay asleep, affecting energy, mood, and daily life.
  • Causes include stress, poor sleep habits, medical conditions, and certain medications.
  • Symptoms include difficulty falling asleep, waking up during the night, and feeling tired during the day.
  • Natural remedies like warm milk, chamomile tea, and tart cherry juice may help improve sleep quality.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) is a highly effective non-drug treatment option.

Understanding Insomnia

Insomnia is a sleep disorder where people find it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep. Sometimes they wake up too early and can’t go back to sleep. Short-term insomnia lasts for days to weeks. Long-term insomnia lasts for three months or more. It has a big impact on daily life.12

What is Insomnia?

Insomnia is when falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking too early is a struggle. This can really affect how someone feels and functions daily. It influences mood, energy, and well-being.1

Types of Insomnia

There are two types of insomnia. Short-term insomnia might last just a night or go on for a few weeks. It’s often caused by stress or big life changes. Chronic insomnia happens when someone can’t sleep properly at least three nights a week for three months.2

Symptoms of Insomnia

Insomnia’s symptoms include trouble falling asleep, waking during the night, and waking up too early. It makes people feel tired, moody, or anxious during the day. They might find it hard to concentrate or remember things.2

Insomnia can harm how well we do our jobs or schoolwork. It can slow down our reaction times. This makes us more likely to have accidents. Plus, it can lead to mental health issues like depression or anxiety. It may even worsen certain long-term health problems such as high blood pressure or heart disease.1

Causes of Insomnia

Insomnia, or trouble sleeping, can happen for many reasons. These include stress and big life events. Also, bad sleep habits and some health issues or meds.1

Stress and Life Events

Feeling stressed or going through tough times can cause short-term insomnia. This could be from a loss, divorce, or losing a job. These big changes mess with our sleep and can make it hard to rest.1

Poor Sleep Habits

Not getting into a good sleep routine can also lead to insomnia. This means not sleeping at the same times every day. It also includes using your phone or drinking coffee right before bed.1 These actions mess up our body’s sleep patterns, making it tough to fall asleep.

Medical Conditions and Medications

Health problems like constant pain, feeling down, or sleep apnea can make it hard to sleep. So can some meds. These issues and the effects of certain drugs can stop us from getting a good night’s sleep.1

Knowing the many reasons for insomnia helps us take steps to get better sleep. Understanding the root causes can guide us in making positive changes.134

causes of insomnia

Insomnia and Age

As folks get older, they often have more trouble sleeping.5 Almost half of older adults have insomnia symptoms.5 They tend to spend less time in deep sleep, which means they might wake up more during the night.5 This is because our sleep changes as we age. We might start the day early, feel tired sooner, wake up in the night, or struggle with falling asleep.5

Sleep Pattern Changes with Age

Less of the sleep-regulating hormone, melatonin, is made as we get older. This leads to not sleeping as well.5 Those over 60 are also more likely to have insomnia.6 Study finds they lose about 27 minutes of sleep per night for every decade over middle age.6 Elderly people have less deep sleep and dream sleep than younger people.6

Health Changes and Insomnia

An increase in health issues can affect how well older adults sleep. This includes things like constant pain, breathing problems, and diseases that affect the brain or nerves.5 For older adults, several things can lead to insomnia. These can be medications, other sleep problems, or various health issues. Mental health conditions like depression and anxiety, lifestyle choices, stress, and even having caffeine, alcohol, or cigarettes before bed can play a part.5 If someone has insomnia three nights a week for three months, they might be diagnosed with chronic insomnia.6 Older people are also more likely to have disorders that mess with their daily sleep schedule.6

It’s crucial to understand how older adults face sleep issues. Knowing the reasons and finding good solutions can make a big difference in their sleep and life quality.

Risk Factors for Insomnia

Some people are more likely to have insomnia. This risk is higher for women and those over 60. If you have health problems, your chances also go up.1 High stress and an irregular sleep pattern can add to this.4 Notably, women and older people face insomnia more.4

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To battle insomnia, it’s good to know these risks.1 This can help in prevention. Tips on sleep health and stress reduction are important.1 This way, sleep troubles can be tackled, leading to better health and happiness.

Risk Factors for Insomnia

Complications of Insomnia

Untreated insomnia can really mess up your health and happiness.1 It makes you do worse at work or school, causing more mistakes and accidents.1 You might also feel more depressed or anxious, and it can make health issues like high blood pressure and heart disease worse.1 So, it’s really important to deal with it for a better life.

Impact on Work and School Performance

If you can’t sleep well, you’ll find it hard to focus or remember things. This can lower how well you do your job or study.1 And not being at your best can lead to making more mistakes or even missing work or school. This hurts your career or your grades.1

Increased Accident Risk

Not getting enough sleep can make you slower to react and make choices. This means you’re more likely to have accidents, whether at work or when driving.1 Falling asleep behind the wheel is especially dangerous, causing more car crashes. So, it’s a major safety issue.

Mental Health Concerns

Long-term insomnia can make mental health problems like depression and anxiety worse.1 Not sleeping well can mess with your mood, make you more stressed, and lower your general happiness. That’s why it’s key to treat insomnia to protect your mental well-being.

Exacerbation of Chronic Conditions

Insomnia doesn’t just affect your mood and alertness. It can also make ongoing health issues harder to manage, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.1 Your body’s sleep cycle gets messed up. Plus, the stress and tiredness from not sleeping enough can really harm your efforts to control these problems.

Prescription Medications for Insomnia

For people who can’t sleep, prescription drugs might help. They work on the brain and body to make falling and staying asleep easier. It’s important to talk to a doctor about the risks and benefits of these meds.7

Benzodiazepines and Z-Drugs

Benzodiazepines like Xanax and Valium help with short-term sleep problems. They make you sleep but can be addictive.7 Z-drugs, including Lunesta and Ambien, are also used for short-term sleep issues.7

Orexin Receptor Antagonists

Newer medicines like Quviviq and Belsomra tweak how orexin works. Orexin helps control when we sleep. These drugs can improve both falling asleep and staying asleep.7

Antiseizure Medications

Some seizure medicines, like Silenor, can aid sleep. They work by blocking some brain signals, encouraging restful sleep.7

Sedating Antidepressants

Sedating antidepressants, for example, amitriptyline and trazodone, are another option. They’re used if your insomnia links to mental health problems.8

Prescription drugs are helpful but have downsides like dependence and side effects.7 Working with your doctor is key to find what’s right for you. This ensures you use them safely and effectively.8

Over-the-Counter Remedies for Insomnia

Besides prescription drugs, you can find over-the-counter remedies for insomnia.


Diphenhydramine and doxylamine can make you feel sleepy. They help you fall asleep faster.9But, using these can make you feel groggy during the day. They might also make your mouth dry, your vision blurry, or give you a hard time going to the bathroom.9

Melatonin Supplements

Melatonin, a hormone that helps control your sleep cycle, is another option.9It works well for adjusting your sleep after traveling or if you have trouble falling asleep. But, its use for general insomnia isn’t entirely clear yet.9Remember, melatonin can sometimes lead to headaches, feeling sick, or being too sleepy during the day.10Always be careful with over-the-counter solutions. It’s wise to talk to a doctor before you start using them.910 Be especially cautious if you are pregnant, nursing, are over 65, or at risk of dementia. This is because these sleep aids might not be safe for everyone.10 Experts usually suggest using them for a short period. If sleep troubles last, getting advice from a doctor for other options like therapy or short-term prescriptions is a good idea.10

Natural Remedies for Insomnia

Aside from medicine, natural remedies can help with sleep. They offer a safe way to solve sleep problems.

Warm Milk and Chamomile Tea

Drinking warm milk or chamomile tea can relax you. They have natural ingredients that help you sleep better.

Tart Cherry Juice

Tart cherry juice is good for sleep. It contains melatonin, which regulates your sleep. Drinking it may mean more sleep and better sleep quality.

Exercise Routine

Regular exercise can fight insomnia.11 Doing 150 minutes of exercise a week can reduce sleep problems. It helps lower stress and makes you relax, which aids in better sleep.

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Maintain Cool Temperature

A cool room is perfect for sleeping well.12 Keeping the temperature between 65 and 72 degrees can help. It allows our body to naturally prepare for sleep.

Minimize Light Exposure

Reduce light, especially from your phone, at night. Turning off bright lights and not using screens before bed helps your body know it’s time to sleep.

Although not all remedies are proven, they’re safe options to try. Adding these to your daily routine can boost both your sleep and health.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) greatly helps without using medicine. It lets people find and change ways of thinking and acting that hurt their sleep. Sessions, which last 6-8 times, can differ depending on what you need. But, there aren’t many therapists trained in this in the U.S.13

This kind of therapy works on improving how you sleep, handling stress and worry, and adjusting your thoughts about sleep. Studies find it’s just as good as sleeping pills but lasts longer and has fewer side effects. About 70% to 80% of people with sleep problems get better with CBT-I. After treatment, they often fall asleep quicker, sleep more, and wake less during the night.13

The American College of Physicians says CBT-I should be the first choice for adults with sleep issues. It’s better than just taking pills because it gets to the root of the problem. It takes time and work, but the results are worth it. Many things, like medical conditions and mental health problems, can lead to sleepless nights. That’s why it’s important to treat these conditions. CBT-I can help no matter what’s causing your insomnia and has good, long-lasting effects with no bad side effects.14

Sleep Hygiene and Lifestyle Changes

Getting better at sleep hygiene and changing how we live can really help with insomnia. It’s key to go to bed at the same time every day, even on weekends. This keeps your body’s clock in check.15 A research found that keeping to a strict schedule improved sleep for 75% of people.15 And, 85% of those who don’t have good sleep habits found it hard to fall asleep.

It’s smart to cut back on caffeine and alcohol before you hit the hay.15 Four out of five folks who drank less caffeine at night said they fell asleep quicker.15 Those who make sleep a priority and stick to a regular bedtime saw 60% less sleepiness during the day.

Optimize Sleep Environment

Make your sleep spot chill, pitch black, and quiet to signal your body it’s sleep time.16 Good sleep habits are step one in treating insomnia, and they’re pretty safe.15 Having a tech-free break before bed led to 55% less worry about not falling asleep.

Develop a Relaxing Bedtime Routine

Having a ritual like a warm bath or reading before bed can help you wind down.16 Things like picturing calm places, deep breaths, and relaxing your muscles can get you ready for sleep.15 Trying relaxation tricks before bed cut down on 40% of the time people spent not sleeping.

Just a few lifestyle tweaks can really change how well you sleep.16 Keeping a steady sleep schedule, staying awake during the day, and watching out for too much screen time are vital for good sleep.16 How much light you get, what you eat, if you smoke, and your health can also affect your sleep.16 Long-lasting insomnia really hurts how good your life is, underlining why it’s important to address it early.

Insomnia in Children and Teens

Sleep problems, like insomnia, are common among children and teenagers. Many teens don’t sleep enough, aiming for 8 to 10 hours.17 Changes in sleep patterns during puberty might make them want to sleep later, by about 2 hours.17 This shift can make falling asleep or sticking to a regular bedtime schedule hard. Fixing sleep issues early is key for their health, mood, and school success.

Research from Johnson et al. (2006) shows a lot of teens deal with insomnia, with this issue potentially differing by gender.18 Chronic insomnia in teens can lead to serious health and function problems, as per Roberts et al. (2008).18

Caffeine from drinks can disrupt teens’ sleep.17 Plus, being overweight or obese might mean a higher chance of a sleep disorder called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).17 Research has connected screen time before bed to sleep problems in kids and teens.18 Likewise, studies on caffeine and energy drinks have found an impact on sleep by Roehrs and Roth (2008), Owens et al. (2014), and Orbeta et al. (2006).18 Having too much screen time or overusing the internet could also lead to teens feeling overly tired during the day, as found in a study by Choi et al. (2009).18

Setting and sticking to bedtime routines, limiting screen time at night, and handling any health or mental health issues are great steps to fight insomnia in kids and teens.17 It’s also good for teens to stay away from caffeine, late-night snacks, and too much screen time before bed.17 Being active helps teens sleep better at night and avoids the need for naps during the day.17 It’s important to keep a regular wake-up time, even on weekends, for a healthy sleep pattern.17

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When to Seek Professional Help

Is insomnia making your daily life hard? It’s time to get help. Your doctor can figure out what’s causing your sleep trouble. They might suggest treatments like medicine, CBT, or seeing a specialist.19

If you think you might have a serious sleep issue, like sleep apnea, or if other health problems are showing up, don’t wait to ask for advice.19 Nearly 90% of folks with long-lasting insomnia also have other health or mental problems.19

Your doctor will look at how you sleep and see if it’s a regular issue, happening at least 3 nights a week for 3 months.19 They’ll suggest how to treat it, which might mean seeing a sleep expert.19

It’s important to tackle insomnia with a pro. Long-term insomnia can lead to many health issues. Think asthma, a weak immune system, and even heart problems.19

Treatment-wise, CBT is often the best first step. It’s safe, has long-term benefits, and works just as well as sleep pills.19 Your doctor can guide you through different [insomnia treatment options] to find what’s best for you.


Insomnia is a common and sometimes chronic sleeping problem. It can really hurt a person’s body, mind, and how they live day to day. Knowing what causes insomnia, its symptoms, and how to treat it helps. Treatments include things you can do at home and what doctors can help with. This knowledge lets people work to sleep better and be healthier.3

Dealing with insomnia can involve taking care of yourself or getting help from experts. It’s important to build good sleep habits. This means keeping a steady sleep schedule, making your sleep area better, and having a calm bedtime routine. Doing these things can help you sleep more and feel better.3

Finding and treating what’s causing your sleep troubles is key. This could be stress, health problems, or issues with mental health. Solving these issues can bring long-term relief from insomnia.20 It’s about looking at all parts of your sleep health. This way, you can manage your sleep and get the benefits of good rest. This includes thinking better, feeling happier, and enjoying life more.20


What is insomnia?

Insomnia is when you have trouble falling or staying asleep. You might wake up too early and not sleep again.

What are the different types of insomnia?

There are two types of insomnia. Short-term lasts days or weeks. Long-term lasts over three months.

What are the symptoms of insomnia?

Signs of insomnia include trouble sleeping, waking up often, morning tiredness, feeling grumpy, and trouble focusing.

What can cause insomnia?

Stress, bad sleep habits, and health issues can lead to insomnia. Medicine and some conditions can also cause it.

How does age affect insomnia?

Insomnia is more common as you get older. Seniors might have different sleep patterns and health issues that affect sleep.

Who is more prone to developing insomnia?

Women over 60 with health issues or stress might get insomnia. Also, if your sleep routine changes often.

What are the consequences of untreated insomnia?

Not fixing sleeping problems can harm work, school, and mental health. It could make heart and blood pressure problems worse.

What prescription medications are used to treat insomnia?

Doctors might prescribe different drugs for insomnia. These include benzodiazepines, Z-drugs, and others.

What over-the-counter remedies can help with insomnia?

For mild cases, over-the-counter drugs like antihistamines and melatonin can help.

What natural remedies can help with insomnia?

Natural treatments include warm milk, herbal tea, cherry juice, and a regular exercise plan. It’s also important to sleep in a cool, dark room.

How can cognitive behavioral therapy help with insomnia?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) is very effective. It helps patients change negative thoughts and behaviors about sleep.

How can improving sleep hygiene and lifestyle changes help with insomnia?

Better sleep habits and lifestyle changes, like a set bedtime and reducing caffeine, can make a big difference. So can a cozy sleep environment and a calming bedtime routine.

How can insomnia affect children and teenagers?

Insomnia can hurt the health and school life of young people. It’s crucial to address to support their growth and well-being.

When should someone seek professional help for insomnia?

If insomnia starts to really affect your life, see a doctor. They can find out what’s wrong and suggest ways to help you sleep better.

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