I can tell you from personal experience (sadly) that dealing with a chronic sleep issue is quite possibly one of the most frustrating (not to mention exhausting, of course) things that can happen to a person. I've spent the better part of my non-sleeping time stumped about the root of my insomnia, consulting with anyone who will listen, and, only very occasionally and dramatically, screaming a drawn-out "Why?" in my darkened room. The truth is that, while bad sleep is obviously a bummer, it can also be a sign of a bigger problem. There are quite a few underlying medical conditions that cause someone to have trouble falling asleep, and although you shouldn't panic you have one or more of these, it's also pertinent to remain informed. We insomniacs have to look out for each other!
Please resist the urge to run to Google and WebMD immediately after reading through this list. As helpful as those resources can be under the right circumstances, they're no substitute for a face-to-face conversation with a flesh and bone medical professional... and you and I both know that they're also really good at further stoking that panic I tried to warn you against mere sentences ago. If your insomnia is proving to be a major interference within your life — and especially if any of the other symptoms included in the descriptions below hit a little too close to home — it might be time to chat with a doctor to make sure there's not something more serious going on with you and your body.
Plus, if it can help you get more sleep, why wouldn't you give it a shot?
There's a major link between sleep and mental health, and per the National Sleep Foundation: insomnia is very common among people suffering from depression. If you're struggling with sleep and dealing with persistent feelings of sadness or anxiety, now might be the time to seek out an opinion from a mental health expert.
According to Everyday Health, diabetics often struggle with night sweats, swings in blood sugar, and an insistent need to go to the bathroom — all of which can make it challenging to fall asleep.
Until I experienced it for myself just a few months ago, I didn't quite understand what heartburn was — but according to Verywell, somewhere between 18 and 28 percent of American adults deal with this particular physical inconvenience on a regular basis. And as if heartburn itself wasn't terrible enough, it can also cause sleep issues, per Everyday Health. Do your issues with falling or staying asleep stem from a vague inability to get comfortable? Heartburn could be to blame, especially because lying down can make the symptoms worse.
4. Kidney Disease
Per DaVita, people who suffer from chronic kidney disease often struggle with both falling and staying asleep. This may be the result of other conditions related to restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea. More on that later!
5. Cardiovascular Disease
The American College of Cardiology says that the prevalence of insomnia among cardiac patients has been estimated as high as 44 percent, compared to just 10 to 15 percent of the general population. Before you panic (because I know you are), realize that cardiovascular disease is a catchall term for conditions of various levels of seriousness — including, per WebMD, high or low blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, and more. Make sure you're talking to your doctors about your sleep issues so they can check you for any potentially relevant cardiovascular problems.
6. Thyroid Disease
I'll believe almost anything if it comes from Harvard University, and according to Harvard Health Publishing, insomnia is a common symptom of hyperthyroidism, which is basically the result of an overactive thyroid gland that generates too much hormone and speeds up your metabolism. Other symptoms of a thyroid condition include a rapid heart rate, frequent bathroom trips, excessive sweating, anxiety, increased appetite, weight loss, and physical weakness, so if a few of those conditions sound familiar along with your insomnia, it probably wouldn't be a bad idea to talk to your doctor about checking your thyroid function.
The National Sleep Foundation confirms the link between sleep troubles and fibromyalgia, a chronic condition that causes widespread pain and stiffness, as well as daytime fatigue and, well, sleep troubles. The one-two punch of pain and sleep disturbance that fibromyalgia patients suffer basically creates a never-ending cycle of misery and discomfort. Yeesh.
According to CHEST, insomnia is extremely common among adults who have asthma — 37 percent of asthmatics, to be exact, also do a lot of tossing and turning. Low-quality sleep can result from asthma symptoms (breathing issues, coughing, etc.) and can also compound those symptoms during waking hours. After all, rest is key for anyone suffering from a chronic health issue.
9. Restless Leg Syndrome
This one should be fairly self-explanatory, no? An uncontrollable, unpleasant urge to move your legs while you're otherwise at rest (as RLS is described by the National Sleep Foundation) is naturally going to make long bouts of deep sleep a challenge. Perhaps Restless Leg Syndrome is to blame for your issues with getting comfortable enough to truly rest.
10. Sleep Apnea
According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep apnea is a condition in which a "person's airway becomes partially or completely obstructed during sleep, leading to pauses in breathing and a drop in oxygen levels." It's definitely worth getting checked out for sleep apnea (as it is for all of these conditions!), because there are a few easy fixes, including bedtime behavioral changes like limiting pre-sleep distractions and avoiding bright lights at night.