Why Can’t I Sleep? Understanding the Causes of Sleep Disorders

Why Can’t I Sleep? Understanding the Causes of Sleep Disorders

Why Can’t I Sleep? Understanding the Causes of Sleep Disorders

causes of sleep disorders

You’re not the only one lying in bed wondering why you can’t sleep. The American Sleep Association reports 48 million U.S. adults have insomnia. Their restlessness is from sleep disorders.

It’s normal to lose sleep after a stressful or exciting day. But, if you often don’t get enough shut-eye, you may have a sleep disorder. The fact is, one in three people deal with a sleep disorder at some stage of life.

Let’s take a closer look at the causes of sleep disorders.

Causes of Sleep Disorders

A sleep disorder affects both the amount and the quality of your sleep. The lack of sleep also affects your quality of life during the day. Sleep disorders are challenging medical conditions.

If you have disrupted sleep three or more nights a week, for extended periods of time, speak to your doctor. Keep reading to learn the most common reasons for not sleeping through the night.


If you have insomnia, it’s hard to fall asleep and hard to stay asleep. You may wake up too early and not be able to fall back asleep. You don’t get adequate sleep.

Insomnia zaps your energy. The lack of good sleep affects your mood, work performance, and health. Many adults suffer short-term insomnia that lasts for days or weeks. Short-term insomnia is often from stress or a specific event.

Long-term insomnia lasts more than a month. Chronic insomnia can be from an extended circumstance. Or, it may be due to medical conditions and medicines.

Insomnia symptoms can include:

  • Trouble falling asleep at night
  • Waking up during the night
  • Waking too early
  • Tired and/or sleepy during the day
  • Forgetfulness
  • Trouble paying attention
  • Irritability, depression or anxiety
  • Increase in errors or accidents

If your insomnia makes it hard to function during the day, see your doctor. You need to find the cause of your sleep problem and treat it. Your doctor may refer you to a specialist for special tests to diagnose the problem.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep Apnea is so serious it can be life-threatening. It happens when the muscles at the back of your throat collapse. When the muscles relax it restricts airflow.

You can’t take in enough air. Breathing comes to a stop for a moment or longer.

When breathing stops, your brain wakes you up enough for your airway to reopen. Sleep apnea can occur once or twice, or many times per hour. If it’s severe and happens throughout the night you never reach deep, restful sleep stages.

Sleep apnea causes symptoms from mild sleepiness to chronic tiredness. Fitful sleep prevents your body from functioning as it should. It can lead to health risks. It can cause a stroke or heart failure. Drowsiness from lack of good sleep can cause an injury or accident.

There are two main types of Sleep Apnea. Most patients have one type or the other. Yet, there are cases when people have both forms.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

This is a common diagnosis for Sleep Apnea. It refers to when the throat muscles relax during sleep and block the air passage to the lungs. Usually, the nervous system sends a message to the brain to wake the sleeper to reopen the airway.

OSA can be mild, moderate or severe. Mild is 6 instances per hour; severe is more than one occurrence every couple of minutes. Often, people with OSA aren’t aware of the sleep interruption. They believe they slept well.

Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)

Central Sleep Apnea is less common. It occurs when your brain doesn’t send a message to your throat muscles to stay open during sleep. CSA is often caused by a medical condition like Parkinson’s Disease or a stroke. It also can be a side effect of opioid or narcotics prescriptions.

If you think you have any type of sleep apnea, consult your doctor. He may prescribe a test for sleep apnea. Once diagnosed, treatment can relieve symptoms and help prevent other health complications.


Narcolepsy is a major sleep disorder. It’s an uncontrollable and excessive tendency to fall asleep throughout the day. More symptoms are cataplexy, sleep paralysis, and hallucinations.

A person with Narcolepsy can’t stay awake. They feel tired all the time. They may fall asleep while eating or during a conversation. Even worse, the constant nodding off isn’t deep or restful sleep.

Daytime sleepiness affects the quality of life. It’s dangerous if a narcoleptic falls asleep while driving or operating machinery. While Narcolepsy isn’t curable, it is manageable. Good sleeping habits and medications can control the symptoms.

It’s important to note that daytime sleepiness doesn’t always mean Narcolepsy. A specialist can diagnose it with a nighttime sleep study followed by daytime nap tests. The tests reveal abnormalities in dreaming sleep.

Sleep Deprivation

The definition of sleep deprivation is not getting adequate total sleep. Someone in a chronic sleep-restricted state experiences fatigue, daytime sleepiness, and weight fluctuations. Sleep-deprivation also affects a person’s brain and cognitive function.

Effects of Sleep Deprivation

  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Forgetfulness, lack of attention
  • Mood swings, depression
  • Hunger and weight fluctuation
  • Prone to accidents due to clumsiness

If someone suffers from chronic sleep restriction or deprivation it has life-threatening effects.

Night Terrors and Tremors

Night terrors, or sleep terrors, are not nightmares. Sleep terrors cause a person to scream, thrash about, and cry in reaction to a sense of fear and terror. Some sufferers sleepwalk. Adults are at risk of violent behaviors.

A person with sleep tremors is in a sleep-like state during the outbursts. It is very hard to wake them during an episode that can last up to 20 minutes. After the episode, the person may wake up very confused, or fall back to sleep.

Sometimes when waking from a sleep terror people experience short-term amnesia. They may forget their name, where they live, and other details for a few minutes.

Night terrors aren’t caused by nightmares. They occur before the dream state of REM sleep. This is the stage right before deep sleep. The person with the night terror doesn’t have a nightmare. They have a deep sense of terror or fear that they can’t shake.

Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders

Everyone has a circadian rhythm. That rhythm involves being awake during the daytime and asleep at night.

Yet, every individual’s internal clock is different. What’s normal for you may not work for someone else. Some people are morning people. Other people prefer to work late at night.

Circadian rhythm disorders can vary. Some people experience problems, like jet lag, while traveling. In extreme cases, a person may suffer a chronic rhythm disorder that affects them every day.

  • Symptoms can include:
  • Headaches
  • Trouble falling asleep
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Problems with cognitive performance

Circadian rhythm disorders ruin sleep quality, which may lead to sleep deprivation. If you think you have this disorder, talk to a professional.


Ahhh, snoring. The awful sound of one person sleeping while they keep someone else awake.

Snoring is the sound the soft tissue in the back of the throat makes when it vibrates. The muscles in your throat relax while you’re asleep. This narrows the diameter of your throat, which increases air turbulence. The air agitation makes your soft palate, uvula, and tongue vibrate and make noise.

People tend to become snorers as they get older. Most men over 50 years old snore. The most common complaint about snoring is that the sound wakes everyone who can hear it.

The constant waking can impact sleep and health for all affected by it. Noise-canceling earbuds can keep the peace and improve everyone’s sleep.


Sleep is as vital to good health as exercise and eating right. No matter what causes your sleep loss, don’t ignore insomnia. Sleep deprivation affects your physical, mental, and emotional health.

Address lack of sleep fast to avoid health problems and risk for long-term diseases.


You can prevent insomnia and improve your health with good sleep habits.

  • Maintain a consistent bedtime and waking time
  • Get regular physical activity
  • Determine if any of your medications contribute to insomnia
  • Limit daytime naps
  • Cut or reduce caffeine and alcohol intake
  • Don’t use nicotine
  • Don’t eat large meals and beverages before bed
  • Only use your bedroom for sex or sleep
  • Maintain a relaxing bedtime routine

When you follow a consistent and relaxing nighttime ritual, you’ll fall asleep faster.

Get All the Health Benefits of Good Sleep

Visit Sleepify.co to read about the health benefits of a good night’s sleep. We also have mattress guides and a sleep calculator. A sleep calculator figures sleep cycles and natural rhythms. It determines the best bedtime for you.

Contact Sleepify.co to learn how to stop the causes of sleep disorders. We’re here to help you have sweet dreams.

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