Difficulty Sleeping symptoms, causes and treatment

Difficulty sleeping is a widespread health issue. It can refer to difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up very early. Poor sleep and or lack of sleep harm a person’s overall health. Chronic sleep can cause excessive fatigue, cognitive problems, and severe headaches. 

Table of Medications

Difficulty sleeping can happen due to a host of factors, like an underlying medical condition, poor sleep hygiene, or other lifestyle factors. But, do not worry, there are some things you can always help improve the overall quality of your sleep.

Difficulty Sleeping Causes 

Several factors are linked to difficulty sleeping. It can be a person’s sleeping habits, lifestyle, and health condition. Age is another factor to consider. Below we will go through these factors that cause sleep loss and difficulty sleeping in various age groups.

Adults With Difficulty Sleeping 

Most adults need at least 7 hours of sound sleep every night. But, sadly, many adults fail to sleep or stay asleep throughout the night as they age. There are approximately 50% of the older adults that report difficulty sleeping. A recent study suggests that many older and middle-aged adults experience less time in REM (Rapid Eye Movement) or slow-wave sleep. REM and slow-wave sleep are valuable for our body’s regeneration and memory as well as learning. Sleeping less in REM or slow-wave can result in problems sleeping. This is the reason why many adults have difficulty sleeping every night. 

Lifestyle Factors 

Lifestyle factors play a pivotal role together with underlying health conditions in adults who have difficulty sleeping. For instance, some of these factors can include:

  • Consuming a heavy meal or snack before bed
  • Overstimulated before bedtime
  • Exercising before bed
  • Use of electronic gadgets at bedtime
  • Drinking caffeine, nicotine or stimulants at least 2 hours before bed
  • Sedentary the whole day
  • Psychological stress
  • Noise disturbance at night
  • Light disturbance at night

Medical conditions can also impact our quality of sleep, such as:

  • Severe pain
  • Sleep apnea
  • Lower back pain
  • Migraines
  • Headaches
  • Allergies
  • Upper respiratory infection
  • Acid reflux
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • Mental problems
  • Too much stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Parkinsons Disease
  • Alzheimer’s Disease 
  • Babies and Young Children

In babies and young children, difficulty sleeping can also happen. It is very normal for babies and young children to wake up several times in the evening. But, many babies start to sleep throughout the night after they are six months. An older baby is showing difficulty sleeping when it is teething, hungry, sick, has gas, or any current digestive problems. 

Children and teens who experience difficulty sleeping are at high risk for:

  • Injuries
  • Mental health
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Attention issues
  • Focus problems
  • Behavioral problems
  • Poor performance in school

These factors can also enhance the risk of difficulty sleeping among children:

  • Sedentary in the day
  • Irregular sleeping patterns
  • Using gadgets and electronic devices before bed
  • Taking too much sugar or caffeine close to bedtime
  • Breathing problems
  • Sleep apnea
  • Airway resistance syndrome
  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Other health condition

Pregnant Women 

Many women experience difficulty sleeping or have sleep disorders when pregnant. Changes in the way women sleep can occur during pregnancy, and this is often caused by hormonal changes. The hormones estrogen and progesterone increase when one is pregnant. The hormone progesterone will block the brain receptors that cause sleep, while the more estrogen in the body minimizes one’s REM sleep levels.

Difficulty sleeping would often go high in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters of pregnancy. The causes of difficulty sleeping during pregnancy include the following:

  • Indigestion
  • Back pain
  • Leg pain
  • Heartburn
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Nasal congestion
  • Snoring

Sleep Disorders Resulting To Difficulty Sleeping

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a health condition where there is an apparent blocking of the upper respiratory airways. This can lead to pauses in breathing in the evening and throughout the night, leading you to wake up suddenly, with a choking sound. Common snoring issues happen in this health condition. 

Restless Leg Syndrome

Another thing that can cause difficulty sleeping is restless legs syndrome. This can lead to a very uncomfortable sensation around the legs that can be aching or tingling. This allows you to move your legs very frequently, such as when resting, which can disrupt your sleep. 

Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder

The delayed sleep phase disorder is yet another health condition that can impact the quality of sleep is delayed sleep phase disorder. This can lead to a delay in your twenty-four-hour sleep and wake cycles. You can not feel sleepy until in the middle of the evening. The problematic sleep cycle makes it difficult for you to wake up in the morning and can very much lead to day time exhaustion and fatigue.


Those with insomnia may have difficulty sleeping, staying asleep, or both in most cases. Very acute insomnia can last for days and weeks for some. On the other hand, chronic insomnia can extend for months and maybe years.

The leading causes of insomnia can differ from one person to another. Its main reasons can include:

• Migraine

• Headache

• Medications are taken

• Chronic pain

• Hormonal imbalance as a result of hypothyroidism

• Significant changes in life and lifestyle as a whole

• Stress

• Emotional disturbances

• Gastrointestinal diseases

Many cases of chronic insomnia occur as a result of medications taken or any underlying health conditions. Remedying these conditions or changing medications can help alleviate symptoms of insomnia. 

Difficulty Sleeping Disorders

See a medical specialist if your difficulty sleeping becomes ongoing and has been affecting so much of your life. They will help you assess and find the underlying causes for your sleeplessness by performing a thorough medical exam and will ask specific questions about your lifestyle and sleeping habits. 

At your appointment, make sure to inform your doctor about your health conditions, prescriptions are taken, OTC products, and even herbal supplements that you consume regularly. Some supplements and medications can lead to overstimulation and disrupt your sleep when you take them very close to bedtime. You must also make an effort to let the medical doctor about your other problems if you have any like anxiety, depression, stress, or severe pain. These and other factors can impact your ability to have good quality sleep. To know the real cause of your difficulty sleeping, your physician shall recommend that you keep and write in your sleep diary. 

Make sure your record your activity for the whole day, your sleeping habits, and the exact times you went to bed daily, and the time you wake up, foods you take, drinks you have, medications, activity, and the overall quality of sleep that you had. Keeping the sleep journal up to date will help your medical doctor assess the habits that can be triggering your difficulty sleeping. When the doctor thinks you have restless legs syndrome, sleep apnea, or other sleep disorder, they can subject you to a sleep test. You will have to spend a night at the hospital or medical institution for this purpose. A sleep expert will check on you and observe you throughout your sleep. They will monitor your heart rate, breathing, oxygen levels, blood pressure, and brain waves to see if you have any symptoms of any sleep disorder. 

When To See Your Doctor?

Poor sleep quality can negatively affect your overall health and mental well-being. Many people experience varied sleeping problems that often resolved on their own. But, others have sleeping problems that are left untreated or undiagnosed that continuous interfere with their sleep quality. The patient must see a medical doctor if their difficulty sleeping continues or where it impacts their functioning in the day and how they feel as a whole.

Possible Treatment Options

Those who have problem sleeping can benefit from making specific lifestyle changes and utilizing proper sleep aids. Below are some other potential sleep treatment options you can follow for your benefit. 

Suitable Lifestyle Changes

Ensure you follow the following lifestyle changes to help enhance your overall sleep quality:

  • Avoid eating before you hit the bed
  • Go to bed and wake up precisely at the same time every day, if possible and this includes weekends
  • Stay away from alcohol
  • Do not smoke
  • Do not take caffeinated drinks before bedtime
  • Spend some adequate time performing relaxing activities such as running a warm bath, or reading a good book
  • Exercise in the day
  • Do not take a nap during the day
  • Fall asleep in a quiet, cool, and darkroom

Use Sleeping Aids

You can take sleep aids like Melatonin to help sleep in the evening. These are offered over the counter and bought without a prescription. This can help people who have difficulty sleeping or have a sleeping disorder. 

Difficulty sleeping can be a result of lifestyle factors like sedentary lifestyle, age, and stress factors. Following improved sleep hygiene can help resolve your sleeping problems and allow a good night’s sleep.

If you or someone you know have persistent difficulty sleeping, it is time to see a doctor and get help. 

Table of Medications

  • trazodone
  • Ambien
  • zolpidem
  • temazepam
  • Lunesta
  • Ativan
  • Restoril
  • amitriptyline
  • lorazepam
  • Prosom