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Insomnia: What You Need To Know About This Chronic Sleep Disorder

on August 21, 2020

Sleep disorders take shape in many different forms but one that has been discussed for many years is that of insomnia. Similar to Sleep Apnea, this disorder prevents an individual from achieving the quality of sleep that they need to function well on a daily basis. Below, we take an in-depth look at this chronic sleep disorder, its main causes and how it is related to Sleep Apnea. 

Insomnia: What Is This Sleep Disorder?

Experiencing a night or two of being unable to sleep is not uncommon but if each night you find yourself lying in bed praying for sleep to come, then this could signify an issue. Millions of people around the world suffer from insomnia on a yearly basis, yet, many believe it is just the inability to fall asleep. This is not the case. 

This chronic sleep disorder is defined as a repeated difficulty in beginning and prolonging the duration of sleep. Those who suffer from insomnia will also experience other physical and psychological symptoms that can have a significant impact on sleep quality and quality of life. 

Symptoms of insomnia include but are not limited to:

  • Difficulty falling asleep regardless of tiredness levels
  • Waking up frequently during the night
  • Unrefreshing sleep
  • Constant daytime fatigue
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Hormone and mood imbalances
  • Reliance on sleep medication

According to a report by Statistics Canada, insomnia is one of the most prevalent causes of sleep disturbances amongst Canadians with at least 13.4% of adults experiencing symptoms of this sleep disorder.   

What Are The Main Causes Of Insomnia?

The underlying cause of this sleep disorder differs from person to person. For one individual it can be due to an existing medical condition, while for another it could be simply due to drinking far too much coffee in a day. The first step to treating and curing insomnia, however, you need to understand what is causing you not to sleep at night. 

Sleep can be highly affected by both physical and mental factors. For example, emotional issues such as anxiety and depression have an overwhelming ability to stop sleep in its tracks. But, it is also important to examine lifestyle factors such as daytime habits and physical health too.

Below, we mention the most common causes behind insomnia and what impact they have on our ability to sleep well. 


Certain prescription medications have the ability to interfere with sleep especially those that are used to treat depression and high blood pressure. For example, research has found that beta-blockers, which are largely used to treat hypertension, are thought to prevent melatonin production at night. The lower our levels of melatonin, the harder it is for us to regulate sleep patterns.

Additionally, other culprits include common over-the-counter medication such as cold and flu pills and certain pain relievers that contain caffeine. In most cases, your doctor will warn you of any side effects that may impact your sleep. However, if you believe that medication is disrupting your sleep on a regular basis it is important to follow up with your doctor.  

Stress & Anxiety

As we mentioned above, our emotions can highly impact our sleep quality especially when it comes to stress and anxiety. These are two of the most common causes of chronic insomnia. 

While everyone will experience periods of acute stress and anxiety, those who suffer with high levels of stress and anxiety on an ongoing basis will undoubtedly experience sleep problems. The reason for this is due to the fact that these emotions make it more difficult to relax the mind enough to achieve restful sleep. 

Individuals who suffer from both anxiety and insomnia is also referred to as bidirectional comorbidity. While both of these conditions can be codependent from each other, they both have the ability to exacerbate the other. 

Medical Conditions

While our mental health can play a big role in regards to insomnia causes, so can our physical health. In fact, there are many medical conditions such as fibromyalgia, which make it difficult for individuals to comfortably fall and stay asleep at night leading to the development of this chronic sleep disorder. 

One medical condition which is often linked to insomnia is that of Parkinson’s disease. Due to this disease interfering with the body’s brain and nerve signalling, Parkinson patients are prone to waking up more during the night which disrupts the body’s natural circadian rhythm. 

There are also other common hormonal and physical conditions such as menopause, depression, sinus allergies and gastrointestinal issues that can cause an individual to suffer from insomnia symptoms. 

Unhealthy Lifestyle

Finally, leading an unhealthy lifestyle is another big cause of insomnia that many individuals need to be aware of when it comes to this chronic sleep disorder. 

Many don’t realize that daytime habits such as drinking too much caffeine, exercising late in the day, eating sugary food and taking naps can all contribute to our inability to sleep well at night. Those people who continue to take part in lifestyle behaviours that ultimately lead to sleeplessness are at a higher risk of experiencing insomnia on a chronic basis. 

In order to achieve an ideal sleep quality that is needed to wake up refreshed each morning, you need to be living a lifestyle that is supportive of this goal. 

Sleep Apnea And Insomnia:  How Are They Related?

What can be surprising for some to learn is the relationship between insomnia and another sleep disorder, Sleep Apnea. Many sleep specialists report that it is not uncommon for an individual with Sleep Apnea to experience insomnia at the same time. 

The reason for this is insomnia patients can experience issues with breathing when they do fall asleep. As Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a sleep disorder that causes an individual’s airway to become partially or completely blocked during sleep leading to pauses in breathing, waking up frequently during the night can lead to insomnia symptoms. 

While both of these are recognized as independent sleep disorders, they often co-exist together and exacerbate the issues of the other. 

The Damaging Effects Sleep Deprivation Can Have On Your Body

Sleep deprivation as a direct result of insomnia or any other chronic sleep disorder can have devastating effects on the body if left untreated. Not only does it impact your ability to feel rested each morning but it can also lead to other issues such as decreased cognitive functioning and heart conditions. 

However, the good news is that chronic sleep disorders such as insomnia and Sleep Apnea are treatable. The first step is to seek a consultation with your doctor to rule out the causes of your sleep deprivation. Once you have determined this, your doctor will prescribe you a course of treatment such as medication or Sleep Apnea therapy. 

When it comes to overcoming sleep deprivation, it is also important to look at your sleep environment and see what improvements you can make. Take notice as to whether there is too much light in the room and remove any objects such as digital devices that are famous sleep disruptors and insomnia encouragers. 

If you believe that you are suffering from insomnia or any other chronic sleep disorder, don’t delay in getting help. The sooner that you seek professional advice, the easier it will be to get your sleep pattern back on track.