My own experience leads me to believe that the most common and important insomnia causes are mental and emotional.
When I had chronic insomnia, I read all the books on sleep that I could get my hands on. I listened to tapes, tried self-hypnosis, relaxation techniques, tried earplugs and night masks, aromatherapy, herbal formulas, and yes, pharmaceutical drugs.
I did all that… but it didn’t help. None of it helped until I recognized the role that my emotions were playing in my sleepless nights.
Most books and websites just don’t get to the bottom of what really causes chronic insomnia.
They talk about changing your sleep schedule, watching your diet, making your bedroom more comfortable… but it is the rare insomnia book that talks bluntly about the insomnia causes that COULD be the main culprit behind your sleepless nights.
Insomnia isn’t just a matter of what you’re eating or drinking or when you’re going to bed, or whether your bedroom is quiet enough.
These things can be very important, of course. And I do try to cover all of that in depth on this site.
But we’re not just physical bodies. We also have brains, minds, thoughts and emotions.
Lots of people avoid facing up to thoughts or feelings. They keep trying a tape or CD here, or a special herbal formula there, not realizing the simple truth:
If you don’t address the insomnia causes that are mental and emotional, you won’t get to the real cure.
This does not mean, however, that the emotional causes of insomnia will be easily recognized by you. Quite the contrary… they could, in fact, be quite hidden!
But before you start wondering if I’m going to start in on the “psychobabble,” don’t worry. The mental and emotional insomnia causes are not that deep. You most likely won’t have to dig into your childhood or rummage through any “deep dark inner secrets” just to have a good night’s sleep!
I will show you some very simple, straightforward and easy-to-understand methods of changing your mental habits so you can sleep better. (This is the basis of cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia.)
By mental habits, I mean the thought patterns and thought processes that have developed over the weeks and months (and possibly years) that you’ve suffered from chronic sleeplessness.
The emotion-based insomnia causes are not really as complicated as you may think. In a nutshell: your mental habits are keeping you awake at night.
If you don’t change these habits, and if you continue to ignore the power of your mind to determine how well you sleep at night… then your chances of ever beating chronic insomnia permanently just aren’t as good. Relapses will happen, and you’ll get discouraged once again
So let’s discuss just a few of those emotional causes of insomnia now. I encourage you to read much more in the article section below.
(Emotional) Insomnia Cause #1: Anxiety
Yes, symptoms of anxiety MAY be your number one cause of chronic insomnia. And it so happens that the person who tends toward anxiety also tends toward insomnia.
Why? Because both are connected to what is called “hyperarousal of the nervous system” which you can read more about here.
Anxiety is not only one of the major emotional causes of insomnia, but it also may be a precursor of insomnia–that is, a period of anxiety, fear and worry might have set it off in the first place.
Dealing with “anxiety insomnia” is so important for self-treatment that
I have devoted a whole section to it.
It is well known that insomnia may be a symptom of depression. But you don’t have to be severely depressed to set off a bout of insomnia. Even mild depression, especially if it’s linked with a feeling of helplessness–that you can’t do very much to fix your life, or that you have little control over what happens to you–can be a major emotional cause of insomnia.
Does this sound like I’m repeating myself? Isn’t worry an awful lot like anxiety?
Well, yes and no. I have found that worry and anxiety, while closely connected, can yet be quite different from each other.
Anxiety is often more FELT in the body as a generalized emotion, tightening the chest and stomach areas, quickening the pulse, and other fear-like symptoms.
Worry is more like a never-ending treadmill of thoughts circling around in your head–“what if this happens? what if that happens? how should I deal with it? what can I do?” Worry is much more specific than anxiety, centered on particular events and situations happening in your life.
Read more about how to deal with worry here.
Anger and Resentment
These emotions can chip away at your peace of mind night after night, making you feel like it’s impossible to “let go” and leave it behind for the night.
Anger is probably the number-one repressed human emotion because it can cause so many interpersonal conflicts and difficulties.
But guess what–repressed anger can keep you up at night too. So now you’re restless and wide awake after a day putting up with your annoying coworkers, but you don’t even know why!
Mental Excitement and Overstimulation.
It’s important to realize that not all emotional insomnia causes are negative. Many insomniacs get an unwelcome burst of mental energy at night that can lead to lots of creative, intriguing and exciting ideas.
I call this the Night Owl Syndrome. Only trouble is, if your excitement keeps you up all night, you’ll be too tired the next day to do much of anything.
Even if you get up and work on your ideas and work off your stimulation, you will find yourself fatigued and cranky in your daily life, with a disappointed “let down” feeling that all your nighttime stimulation didn’t help you achieve your real goals.
While PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is a mental health condition that may require professional treatment, just about everyone has experienced traumas and painful experiences in life (though perhaps on a milder scale than a diagnosed case of PTSD).
These events and memories can replay in the mind like an endless loop, even when they are seemingly not all that serious.
But you get the idea. I cannot emphasize too much the importance of understanding how emotions affect your sleep, along with your overall health and quality of life.
Falling asleep requires a certain level of mental relaxation and comfort. Insomnia caused by emotional and mental discomfort might seem stubbornly difficult to treat.
But you will soon find some very effective methods for dealing with the emotional causes of insomnia in the articles and other resources below.
If you are short on time, try these instant relaxation exercises for fast results.
Try this method to cure worry-related insomnia — it’s the best technique I have ever used.
Here’s how to discover and deal with subconscious insomnia causes like repressed fear, anger, and grief.
If you are feeling stressed out, exhausted yet uptight, worn out yet restless, tired but wired, your nervous system mght be in a state of hyperarousal. Read more about that here.