Insomnia: 5 Causes And 5 Solutions

If you have insomnia, you know it is a sleep disorder that can take away your energy, positive mood, and adversely affect your health.  

And we know that it’s really hard to manage your life if you are facing this dilemma.  

That’s why learning five causes and five solutions for a better night’s rest will start you on your journey to facing this problematic situation.  

Once you begin to understand the causes, the solutions are one less step away from being achieved.  And you’ve already started by taking the first step in becoming more educated!  

Restorative Effects 

It’s so important to begin the process of understanding how to get enough sleep.  That’s why working with a good naturopathic doctor is a positive way to begin your health journey for better sleep.  

A good doctor will help you resolve your sleeping issues because not getting enough sleep for long periods of time can begin to reverse the restorative effects of sleep that happen in the body.  

So check out the causes and solutions below for the start of an excellent night’s rest.  

5 Causes

1. Psychiatric

More common than not, stress is a major factor in causing insomnia.  

Are you stressed?  Have there been major life changes or traumatic events in your life like a new job or the loss of a job?  Other traumatic events could be a death or illness in your family which has led to many months of stress and stress-related insomnia.  

All of these life events are difficult and stress producing, and each and every person deals with their own life struggles.  

As we remember this, it is good to know that we can choose to be kind and to make positive choices about our lives.  

As John Newton says, “We can easily manage if we will only take, each day, the burden appointed to it.  But the load will be too heavy for us if we carry yesterday’s burden over again today, and then add the burden of the morrow before we are required to bear it.” 

2. Medical

Some people have chronic illnesses that lead to a lack of sleep and the inability to stay asleep for long periods of time.

Diseases and disorders that are usually linked to loss of sleep are chronic pain, cancer, heart disease, asthma, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), overactive thyroid, sleep apnea, and restless leg syndrome. 

Substances

Caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine can make it a lot harder for you to fall asleep if you are consuming large quantities of any of these substances.  

Plus, too much of any of these substances will negatively affect your overall health.  If not only for the sake of a good night’s rest, but also for your full body wellness, consume each of the following substances in moderation.  

3. Caffeine 

Morning coffee is so good! The smell of dark roast espresso wakes up tired eyes and becomes a ritual in many homes across the world.   As a stimulant, caffeine naturally makes it harder to fall asleep. But why does this happen?  

Well, the stimulant in caffeine triggers your adrenal glands and tells them to produce adrenaline and cortisol.  This wonderful boost is what we all look for when we drink coffee.  

The downside is that this boost of adrenaline and cortisol can last for up to five hours.  If you are in the habit of drinking an afternoon cup of coffee, you might be affecting your body’s natural sleep pattern.  

Try lowering your coffee consumption. Stick to only drinking coffee during the morning and don’t drink more than two cups a day. By cutting out late night and after dinner espresso drinks you can truly decrease the adverse side effects of coffee.

4. Alcohol

What’s your favorite cocktail? A dirty martini, peach bellini on ice, the newest local brew? We get it, alcohol makes you a social butterfly. But let’s take a look at what happens inside the body. 

Did you know that alcohol slows down your motor and brain functions? Yup, that’s why you feel so relaxed and at ease.  But what is not commonly known is that metabolized alcohol creates the opposite effect of its initial relaxing effect by becoming a stimulant and a toxin.  

The metabolized alcohol in your body creates acetaldehyde.  Acetaldehyde acts as a stimulant which can not only prevent you from falling asleep but also can wake you up earlier than you would if alcohol was not in the body, and it wakes you up with a vicious hangover.  

So now we know that if you drink a large quantity of alcohol, you’ll definitely get less sleep and wake up not feeling your best.  

5. Nicotine 

Does that addicting pack of cigarettes call out your name? Come on, we all know cigarettes aren’t great for our health, but they do have an invigorating effect on the body.  

The invigorating effect they have on the body is because nicotine affects certain neurotransmitter systems in the body.  And when these neurotransmitter systems are affected, symptoms of insomnia like sleep latency, sleep fragmentation and decreased slow-wave sleep can really mess up your night.  

So, yes, nicotine affects the overall quality of your sleep, as well as affecting respiratory disorders like asthma, which can also increase the symptoms of insomnia.  

Improved Sleep 

Now we can take the time to learn about some of the solutions to getting a better night’s rest.  And what’s great about these five solutions is that they will improve your body, space, senses, and mind.    

5 Solutions for Insomnia

1. Sweet Smells 

What better way to begin your sleep-inducing ritual than by using lovely smelling essential oils.  Lavender, rose, and bergamot are all amazing smelling, anti-anxiety producing essential oils that you can use to relax you before bedtime.  

Whether you like to use essential oils topically, in a bath, or diffused through the air in your home, each of these essential oils can help you relax and ease your mind.   

2. Exercise and Insomnia

Everyone knows that it is beneficial to exercise, but how beneficial is it for combating insomnia?  One of the ways exercise may help combat insomnia is from the natural reduction of stress released during physical activity.  

Exercise burns off cortisol, which in turn allows your body to reach a relaxed state allowing you to get a good night’s rest at the end of the day. 

3. Create Your Space

Does the space where you sleep represent cozy comfort and relaxation? If not, it’s time to rethink your bedroom.  

Simple fixes such as creating a dark environment with blackout curtains, using a sound machine, and keeping the space cool with a fan can all help you relax, wind down, and focus on falling asleep.  

Darkness stimulates natural melatonin production, a sound machine can help you focus and not get distracted by external sounds, and a cool space helps with any aches and pains that might be keeping you awake.

You can also try a quality, organic mattress to make sure you are not breathing in toxins when you lay down to sleep.  

4. Technology

Everyone keeps up to date with the news, other people, and current trends with their phones, computer, or television.  And we’ve all gotten in the habit of watching T.V. and reading on our phones or computers until it’s time for us to call it a night.  

What you might not know is that this habit could be affecting your ability to settle down and fall fast asleep. The artificial blue light emitted from your phone, television, or computer can suppress melatonin production and inhibit you from falling asleep for quite some time.    

So do the right thing and turn off any technology at least 30 minutes before bedtime.

You should be even more mindful of the little minds soaking in technology before bed.  It is wise to limit their use of technology for up to two hours before bedtime. 

5. Mental Clarity 

So now we know that our brains need to tune out from technology and tune in to something that relaxes us before attempting to sleep.  

Shifting your focus to journaling, meditating, or simple stretches and breath focus exercises will help your whole body know that it’s time to wind down and relax.  

Trying all of these things, or rotating through each to find the best nighttime ritual that works for you is a productive way to ease your mind, relax your body, and allow you to positively prepare for a great night of sleep.  

As Swami Muktananda says, “Your goal is not to battle with the mind, but to witness the mind.”  Here’s to letting go of the day’s battles and easing into a peaceful night’s rest.  

I look forward to helping you with your particular situation when it comes to finding the best night’s rest.  Contact me for a personal, focused, and solution-oriented visit to help you combat insomnia.  

About The Author:

Dr. Karen Threlkel, Naturopathic Physician, Washington DC

Dr. Karen Threlkel, Naturopathic Physician, Washington DC

Dr. Threlkel received her degree of Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine from The National College for Naturopathic Medicine (now called The National University of Natural Medicine) in Portland, Oregon. She also holds a Bachelor Degree in Kinesiology from The University of Maryland. She is licensed in Naturopathic Medicine by the Government of the District of Columbia Department of Health. Dr. Threlkel is a member of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, past president & current member of the Washington DC Association of Naturopathic Physicians.

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