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Insomnia - what is it and what causes it?


You know how awful one night of bad sleep can make you feel. Now multiply that one bad night by weeks, even months, and it’s easy to understand why insomnia can take a tremendous mental and physical toll on people.

Around one third of Australians experience insomnia at some point in their lives, although only 5% will need professional treatment. Insomnia usually lasts for a short time, although it can go on for months or even years.

Did you know that women and elderly people are more likely to suffer from it?

What is Insomnia?

Insomnia is being unable to fall asleep or stay asleep. Insomnia can affect not only sleep but also your everyday life. People with insomnia can feel dissatisfied with their sleep and usually experience one or more of the following symptoms: fatigue, low energy, difficulty concentrating, mood disturbances, and decreased performance in work or at school.

Things you should know about insomnia!

  • Around 1 in 5 people have insomnia sometimes

  • It’s linked with depression

  • Many poor sleepers have developed poor sleeping habits

  • In the long run sleeping pills aren’t the answer

What are the causes of insomnia?

Why do some people sleep soundly no matter what happens, and others find it impossible to sleep? Sometimes insomnia can occur for no obvious reason, but there are also several possible causes.

Poor sleep habits, (sleep hygiene) is the most common cause of insomnia. Having a regular sleep routine, pre-bedtime activities and bedroom surroundings can have a big influence on sleep.

Substances, including caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, amphetamines and some prescription medicines can dramatically affect your ability to sleep.

Stress, caused by work or financial problems, relationship issues or grief.

Medical issues, in particular, conditions causing pain, hormone changes (e.g. hot flushes and night sweats during menopause), breathing, urinary or digestive problems.

Mental health problems, insomnia can be a symptom of anxiety, depression or other disorders.

Sleep disorders, including obstructive sleep apnoea, circadian rhythm disorders caused by irregular sleep patterns, restless legs syndrome and periodic limb movement.

Life stage, elderly people are more likely to have insomnia.

Shift work, people who work different shifts often don’t sleep as well as those who work set hours during the day.

Being overtired can increase the risk of someone making mistakes or having an accident. Research has shown that severe sleep deprivation can affect driving ability as much as alcohol.

If you have any concerns, please see your GP. They are here to help and support you.


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