Insomnia is the inability to sleep properly; in most cases people with insomnia experience difficulty getting to sleep, but it can also cause people to wake during their sleep, wake up too early or feel that they haven’t had enough sleep to feel energised and refreshed when they wake up. Insomnia affects almost everyone at some stage in their lives.

Causes of insomnia

There may be several different reasons why a person cannot sleep; some of the most common causes of insomnia are listed below:

  • Stress: stress can be caused by an array of different factors that may range from work or school worries to a tragic event or an irritating noise that keeps you awake. Stress can build over time, especially if you don’t take time out to relax and try resolve the issues that are causing stress
  • Mental health issues: mental health issues such as anxiety, depression or bipolar disorder can cause disturbance in sleep patterns
  • Health conditions: many heath conditions can contribute to disrupted sleep or difficulty getting to sleep; these include:
  • Heart disease
    • Neurological conditions (including Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease)
    • Joint and muscular pain
    • Respiratory illnesses
    • Other sleep disorders (such as narcolepsy)
    • Digestive disorders (such as IBS {irritable bowel syndrome}, constipation or diarrhoea)
    • Hormone imbalances or conditions (such as thyroid problems)
  • Drug and alcohol abuse: drugs and alcohol may cause changes in the body that make it difficult for the mind and body to relax
  • Certain medications may also contribute to insomnia (examples include hormone treatment, antidepressants and treatments for high blood pressure)

Symptoms of insomnia

Insomnia usually makes people experience difficulties getting to sleep but there may also be other symptoms; these include:

  • Feeling wide awake when you get into bed even when you’ve been feeling tired all evening
  • Waking up many times during the night
  • Feeling tired even after a night’s sleep
  • Waking up very early and then not being able to get back to sleep
  • A lack of concentration
  • Tiredness during the day

Combating insomnia

Short-term insomnia is very common and it often doesn’t require formal treatment; instead you will probably be advised to follow a few steps that will help you to sleep better (these will be outlined in more detail later). Long-term insomnia is usually very disruptive and can have huge implications for a person’s physical and mental state; if this is the case, the patient may be referred to a counsellor for a course of counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy. A course of sleeping tablets may also be prescribed.

Guide to Sleep Disorder

Sleep Disorder Intro



Restless legs syndrome

Sleep apnoea

Sleeping well