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Can't Sleep - Insomnia


Written by Lauren

Last Updated: 11th February, 2022

Sleep is a time when you can truly relax and disconnect from day-to-day life. It is a time when your mind and body can restore and recover, preparing you for the day ahead. However, for many, getting to sleep can be a struggle and the lack of sleep can have serious consequences on your emotional and physical health.

In the UK, it is estimated that 67% of adults suffer from disrupted sleep, with 23% admitting they get no more than 5 hours of sleep per night. Keep reading to understand the possible causes for lack of sleep and how you can improve your sleep quality. 

Types Of Insomnia 

Insomnia✓ is a sleep disorder in which you have problems getting to sleep fast, staying asleep or waking up at the correct time. There are many different types of insomnia, which are often categorised concerning health problems, time scale and specific sleep issues. 

types of insomnia

The first two types of insomnia are categorised by the length of time someone may be suffering from insomnia: 

  • Short Term Insomnia: If you’ve been struggling to sleep for less than 3 months, it could be short term insomnia✓, otherwise known as acute insomnia. Symptoms include difficulty falling or staying asleep, as well as waking up early. 
  • Long Term Insomnia: Otherwise known as chronic insomnia, you may be experiencing long-term insomnia if you’ve been struggling with sleep for over 3 months. Long term insomnia can have serious mental and physical implications. 

There is also primary and secondary insomnia, which relates to what is causing the individual to lose sleep: 

  • Primary Insomnia: Symptoms of primary insomnia✓ include difficulty initiating and maintaining sleep, and mid sleep or early morning awakenings. Primary insomnia cannot currently be explained or linked to psychiatry or any other medical conditions. 
  • Secondary Insomnia: As opposed to primary insomnia, secondary insomnia means that the sleeping troubles are linked to other health issues. This could include, medical illnesses, mental health problems or other sleep disorders. 

Finally, insomnia can be differentiated depending on whether you have problems falling, maintaining or getting back to sleep. 

  • Sleep Onset Insomnia: If you’re suffering from sleep onset insomnia, it means that you have problems falling asleep. This type of insomnia can be long or short term, and is often caused by issues such as stress and anxiety. 
  • Sleep Maintenence Insomnia: As the name suggests, sleep maintenance insomnia is when you struggle to stay asleep throughout the night, often waking up and having difficulties getting back to sleep. 
  • Early Morning Insomnia: Those struggling with early morning insomnia✓ will find themselves frequently waking up before they intended. This type of insomnia is mainly prevalent amongst older adults and can be related to age-related and behavioural changes. 

Did you know?
Research✓ indicates that insomnia is much more common amongst older individuals. It is estimated that 50% of older adults have sleep problems, with 30% to 48% suffering from insomnia symptoms.

Causes Of Insomnia 

There are many different causes for insomnia, and sometimes it cannot be explained. However, identifying what could be causing you to lose sleep could help you overcome the problem. 

One of the main reasons for losing sleep is stress. This could be due to day to day stresses such as work and family life or stressful life events which involve significant or traumatic changes. In addition, you could be suffering from more serious mental health problems, such as anxiety, PTSD or depression, which may require professional help.

Certain lifestyle habits can also have a negative impact on your sleep. This could include having irregular sleep habits or taking naps during the day. You could also be getting too much stimulation before bed, such as excessive exercise, consuming caffeine or using technology with blue light.

How Stress Impacts Sleep

Stress can often be one of the main culprits for losing sleep. The source of our stress can come from many directions, such as work commitments, financial worries, family troubles or health issues. As well as taking a toll on our daily lives, it can also have a significantly negative impact on our sleep. 

stress and insomnia

Stress can cause the body to release hormones from the autonomic nervous system (ANS), resulting in you feeling more alert and awake. This increased adrenaline can cause problems when your body is preparing to relax before going to sleep. The NHS✓ claims that 1 in 3 of us suffer from poor sleep, with stress being one of the main factors, alongside technology and working from home. 

There are many ways you can manage or reduce stress to help you get a better nights sleep. This includes practising meditation, establishing a daily routine, seeking therapy or doing yoga. Regarding yoga, research✓ has found that regular yoga practice is an effective method in reducing stress, anxiety, depression and other mood disorders.

The Importance Of Sleep 

If you are suffering from a lack of sleep, you are likely to feel more fatigued and irritable than someone who is well-rested. However, aside from mood changes, there are many other ways that sleep can impact your mental and physical health. Below are some scientifically proven benefits of getting enough sleep. 

importance of sleep
  1. Mood: It’s no secret that lack of sleep can lead to increased levels of irritation due to feeling fatigued. Research✓ shows that sleep deprivation can lead to increased anger, depression and anxiety. 
  2. Immune System: Lack of sleep can lead to disturbances in your immune system and could lead to you catching infections more regularilly. Research over the past decade have found strong evidenc that sleep enhances the immune defence✓
  3. Sex Drive: It has been suggested that less sleep can lead to a loss of libido and reduced interest in sex. A study✓ involving 171 women concluded that sufficient sleep is important to maintain a healthy sexual desire. 
  4. Weight Management: Getting enough sleep can be important in maintaining a healthy body or attempting to lose weight. Research✓ has suggested that insufficient sleep can contribute towards obesity and jeopardise weight loss efforts. 
  5. Cardiac Health: There has been alot of scientific research that has linked lack of sleep to increased liklihood or cardiac health problems. Studies✓ have shown that excessibely long or short period of sleep can increase the risk of high blood pressure, particurily in women.

Sleeping Tips

If you are struggling to sleep or suffering from insomnia, there are various techniques and tips you can try to get a better nights rest. However, it's worth noting that if the problem persists or seriously affects your daily life, you should seek professional help. 

sleeping tips

As lack of sleep is often caused by stress, you could try meditation breathing exercises or engage in regular exercise. Research✓ has found that regular exercise can protect you against the negative emotions surrounding stress, as well as offer many other benefits. Moreover, establishing a regular sleeping and waking routine can be beneficial as it can aid your internal body clock to know when it's time to sleep. 

In addition, there are also things you could avoid if you aim to improve your sleep. It is advised against drinking, smoking or consuming caffeine up to 6 hours before bed as these substances can make you more alert. You could also avoid using technology before bed as the blue light can reduce melatonin✓, the hormone which helps you get to sleep.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why can't I sleep?

There are many reasons why you may be losing sleep. This is often due to stress or other mental issues, such as anxiety. You could also be engaging in damaging habits such as using too much technology before bed or having an irregular sleep routine.

How to get to sleep when you can't?

If you're lying awake at night or tossing and turning, there are certain steps you can take to relax. You could try breathing exercises or the popular military method, which is designed to help you sleep in minutes.

What to do if you can't sleep?

If you can't sleep, there are several lifestyle habits that you can change. This could include getting regular exercise, using less technology before bed and practising regular meditation. You could also seek ways to reduce stress and anxiety levels, as this is often the cause of lack of sleep.

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