Finally—5 Reasons for Insomnia, Explained (and How to Get Some Shut-Eye)

reasons for insomnia

A reported 41 million American workers say they don’t get enough shut-eye—and that’s just those in the workforce. A lack of sleep is not only frustrating, it’s just plain debilitating, which is why we (along with many others) are curious about the reasons for insomnia. The National Sleep Foundation describes insomnia as “difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, even when a person has the chance to do so.”

The thing that you may not realize is that you may be suffering from secondary insomnia, meaning that your difficulty in falling and staying asleep is caused by something completely unrelated. Instead of just focusing on fostering good sleep hygiene, meditating, and even counting sheep, it’s wise to get to the root of the problem. Once you treat the underlying condition, it’s likely that your insomnia will lessen—or even go away for good.

Read on to see the five conditions that may be the reasons for insomnia in your life. Here’s to a better night’s sleep from now on.


Many of us have never heard of this before, but your hormones can sometimes be to blame for a lack of sleep. “More than 70% of women complain of sleep problems during menstruation, when hormone levels are at their lowest,” says Amy Wolfson, Ph.D., and author of The Woman’s Book of Sleep. And we’re sad to say that going through menopause can also cause insomnia, but for other reasons—this time it’s due to things like hot flashes, snoring, and even mood-related disorders.


The National Sleep Foundation says that studies have shown that when we travel to different time zones, our body’s “biological clock” gets thrown off. This occurs because we function on a 24-hour schedule called circadian rhythms. Oftentimes when we get back home after international travel, it takes a few days for our body to totally reset, causing us to wake up at weird hours or be wired while we’re trying to catch some z’s. Stanford sleep expert Jamie Zeitzer says that using light in the right way can help us adjust quicker while back home. “If you are going east to west, you’ll want to get evening exposure to light,” says Zeitzer. “And if you’re going west to east, you’ll want to get morning exposure to light.”


You may unknowingly be suffering from Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) in which you have an uncomfortable feeling in your legs and an uncontrollable urge to move them. In fact, RLS patients reportedly only get around 5.5 hours of sleep a night—or less. This lack of rest is because most people find that getting up and moving around is the best way to alleviate their discomfort. If you think this may be the case for you, pay a visit to your doctor since certain prescriptions can help.


It may sound too simple, but consuming too much caffeine—especially too close to bedtime—can be the reason you’re up twiddling your thumbs at night. The rule of thumb is that you should lay off the caffeine for at least six hours before bedtime. Some experts like Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and fellow of The American Academy of Sleep Medicine, believe you should cut yourself off earlier—around 2 p.m. or so. “Don’t ignore your sleep problems,” says Breus. “Being tired makes us more likely to feel the need for caffeine, and that extra consumption can, in turn, make sleep problems worse.”


Think watery eyes and stuffed-up nasal passages won’t keep you up at night? Well, think again. A study found that 59% of people who had nasal allergies said they had difficulty sleeping because of it. The two conditions are linked because allergies make your nasal passages swell. When you lie down at night, the position often not only makes your congestion worse, but it can also cause nose breathing to become a challenge, says allergist Jennifer Collins, MD.

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