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Home / Wellness

Six causes of insomnia and what to do when you can’t sleep

By Esther Muchene | 5 months ago | 4 min read

 The truth is a lot can keep you up at night (Image: Shutterstock)

If you’re struggling with insomnia, you are definitely not alone.

Falling asleep within minutes you hit the pillow doesn’t happen to everyone. Your thoughts are running wild, there could be some distractions or you may simply be feeling unwell and the medication you’re on is interfering with your sleep.

Insomnia can be described as a sleep disorder where people find it difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep and get enough sleep repeatedly.

When there is a stress factor in your life be it starting a new job or moving to a new city, you may battle acute insomnia which can last for weeks but resolves once the stress dies out.

Changes in sleep environment or temperature can keep some people awake leading to transient insomnia which usually lasts for a much shorter duration.

Chronic insomnia on the other hand lasts way longer and could be as a result of a medical or psychiatric condition.

That said, let us break down in brief what could be causing your insomnia and how to deal with it:


According to some experts, insomnia could be as a result of hyperarousal which can be triggered by a number of factors.

  • Stress
  • Whether it’s an upcoming exam or a traumatic experience you went through recently, stress can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep.

  • Lifestyle
  • Unhealthy habits such as playing video games late into the night, using your phone and staying up late watching TV will stimulate your mind making it hard to fall asleep.

    Your diet too can play a role. Drinking alcohol before bedtime will affect your sleep quality, caffeine may stimulate your brain hours on end while heavy and spicy meals before hitting the sack can keep you up all night.

  • Depression
  • Mental disorders can have an effect on your sleep. Whether short or long-term these health conditions exacerbate mood swings and anxiety which can keep you up for hours.

  • Health
  • Certain treatments for high blood pressure, asthma and depression can lead to side effects which may affect your sleep.

    The medication and withdrawal once you stop takin the pills can make it difficult for your body to fall asleep.

  • Sleep disorders
  • At times, your insomnia could be as a result of certain sleep disorders such as apnea which affects breathing and can disrupt your sleep.

    Nightmares and sleep paralysis have also been known to affect many people making them afraid of wanting to sleep and staying asleep.

  • Pain
  • When you’re in pain you will find it extremely difficult to fall asleep. Those people who suffer from conditions such as fibromyalgia and arthritis often find the pain interferes with their sleep.

    Other conditions such as heartburn may get worse when you lie down and for that reason you will be forced to sit up until it clears itself out.

    If you also urinate a lot due to incontinence or a urinary tract infection, you will find yourself waking up a lot during the night to use the bathroom.

     Avoid sleeping during the day so you can maximise on your sleep at night (Image: Shutterstock)

    So, what you should do when you can’t sleep?

    • Work out

    Regular exercise and keeping physically active will help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep. According to researchers, you should do this at least four hours before you hit the sack.

    • Invest in beddings

    The reason you may not be falling asleep could be as a result of a hard mattress or beddings that don’t sit well with your skin. Invest in a good pillow and comfortable mattress to increase your chances of falling asleep effortlessly.

    • Have a sleep routine

    Find habits that help you trigger your body to sleep. This could be practicing some meditation, deep breathing, a warm bath or a calming chamomile tea to get you into the right head space for sleep.

    • Only go to bed when you need to sleep

    Yes, I know it doesn’t sound right but really think about it, there is no point of going to bed when you are not sleepy. Use that time to catch up on some work, clean up or relax until you can no longer open your eyes and crawl to bed.

    • Get some help

    If you’re insomnia is really getting on the way of your daily activities and life, it is time to talk to a specialist. He or she will be able to pin down the causes and offer suggestions on what you can do to get a good night rest

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