Common Causes of Acute and Chronic Insomnia

When you are lying awake, there are many things that could be going through your mind. All the things you need to do tomorrow. All the things you wished you’d gotten done today. And, perhaps, all the things you’d like to blame for being awake in the first place.

Thinking about why you have insomnia can actually be quite productive because if you and your healthcare provider can figure out what’s causing your insomnia, maybe you can figure out a way to fix it and get some darn sleep.

Let’s start with the basics. What is insomnia exactly anyway? According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, insomnia is defined as a common sleep disorder in which you have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or both. The result is poor-quality sleep or too little sleep such that you don’t feel refreshed or recharged in the morning. And there are different types of insomnia, too. We’ll discuss two of the main ones here: acute and chronic insomnia.

Acute insomnia is sleeplessness that lasts for only a short time (perhaps days or a few weeks), typically due to stress or something unusual going on in your life.

Chronic insomnia, however, lasts longer; 4 weeks or more says the U.S. National Library.

Causes of Acute Insomnia

If you’re suddenly not sleeping, maybe you can already pinpoint the reason. Perhaps you’ve moved to a new home and you’re still getting used to it, maybe you’ve got important deadlines looming, or perhaps a loved one is ill and you’re worried. No? Anything else big going on we should know about? The National Institutes of Health (NIH) says that any traumatic, stressful life event can cause short-term sleeplessness. Such events can include: stress at work, family pressures, or a trauma.

Other causes of acute insomnia can include:

  • Physical discomfort (perhaps due to an injury or illness)
  • Factors in your physical environment (temperature, light, noise etc.)
  • Certain medications that you may have started taking (some treatments for allergies, asthma, colds, depression, and high blood pressure can, for instance, interfere with sleep), or
  • Changes in daily routines that disrupt your sleep cycles (such as travel or shift changes at your job.)

To improve acute bouts of insomnia, working on addressing these root causes can help.

Causes of Chronic Insomnia

Sometimes the causes of chronic insomnia are similar to the causes of acute insomnia just longer term: like medications that you can’t change or stop taking (of course never change or discontinue medications without discussing doing so with your doctor first), extended stress, or a chronic medical condition.

In terms of health conditions, The National Sleep Foundation indicates that the following medical and emotional issues are potential causes of chronic insomnia:

  • Nasal/sinus allergies
  • Gastrointestinal problems such as reflux
  • Endocrine problems such as hyperthyroidism
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Chronic pain
  • Low back pain
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Sleep apnea
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease

And sometimes, people can get insomnia for no apparent reason at all — the insomnia is a condition unto itself and may be referred to by sleep experts as “primary insomnia.” Researchers are still learning about primary insomnia but according to The National Sleep Foundation it’s believed to be linked to the brain’s inability to stop being awake.

If you’re experiencing insomnia — of any sort — we encourage you to learn about healthy sleep habits, what not to do when you can’t fall asleep, and the gold-standard insomnia therapy called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT-i).

CBT-i is recommended by leading health institutions (including the American College of Physicians and the American Psychological Association) as first-line therapy for insomnia with analysis of multiple studies showing that CBT-i is more effective than sleep medications.

Talk to your doctor about it (and, obviously, about all your sleep and other health concerns.) Easy access to qualified CBT-i practitioners is about to become a reality.

Soon Circady will offer CBT-i through a combination of mobile apps, wearable devices and video chat, meaning you’ll be able to access the most highly recommended sleep care from wherever you are.

Ready to do something now? Use the Circady one-week sleep diary app to get the information you need to pursue effective treatment for your sleep problem. You’ll easily collect and record accurate information about your sleep to share with your doctor so he or she can develop the right treatment plan for you.

Thanks for reading and come back soon for updates to our valuable sleep information, tips, and more.