What Causes Insomnia and How to Get a Good Night's Sleep

You've had one heck of a day, and all you want to do is sleep. The minute your head hits the pillow you ... can't fall asleep. How many times has this happened to you?

People often fall into one of two categories:

  1. Last time you remember looking at the clock it read 1 a.m.—but you got into bed at 10 p.m. Despite clenching your eyes closed, sleep just doesn't seem to come.

  2. The last thing you remember is turning out the light. In fact, most people joke that you fall asleep the second your head hits the pillow.

While group No. 2 sleeps soundly, group No. 1 may deal with a very common sleep disorder: insomnia. This condition is defined as difficulty falling or staying asleep, causing fatigue, moodiness, decreased work performance and difficulty focusing.

Nearly 30 percent of the U.S. adult population suffers from insomnia, according to the National Institutes of Health, and 10 percent of those people struggle with fatigue the day after. While the causes range from restless leg disorder to hormonal imbalances, one thing is sure: insomnia can be debilitating.

Luckily, it doesn't have to be part of your regular routine. Here's what you need to know to get a good night's sleep once and for all.

More: How Sleep Improves Your Performance

Types of Insomnia

Insomnia comes in all forms, affecting every person differently. Sleep experts at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute define two major types of insomnia:

  • Acute insomnia can occur for a few days to a few weeks. This is often the result of something that's temporary, such as stress or trauma. This is also referred to as primary insomnia, which health professionals consider a distinct disorder and one that is difficult to diagnose.

  • Chronic insomnia lasts at least a month and is often caused by underlying problems that occur because of a health condition, medication or substance—this is called secondary insomnia. Medications that commonly cause secondary insomnia include alpha-blockers, antidepressants and ACE inhibitors, according to AARP.
More: Can Missing Sleep Make You Sick?

Consult with a medical professional to determine if any medications you're taking or an underlying health condition could be affecting your sleep. A simple medication swap could be the answer to your problem.

For those suffering from primary insomnia, however, the fix may not be so simple.

How to Beat Primary Insomnia

Primary insomnia, which can be caused by daily stress or a recent trauma, is often harder to diagnose, especially if you frequently suffer from the same things that disturb your sleep. That doesn't mean your insomnia can't be fixed; it just means you have to do a little work to uncover the cause and fix the problem.

Keep a Sleep Diary

A diary can help you track your sleep patterns and find the triggering issue to your insomnia. There are also phone applications and fitness bands that can help track this.

Some important things to notate in your sleep diary are:

  • When you went to bed
  • When you got up
  • If you woke up during the night
  • How difficult it was to fall asleep

Use this detailed template from the National Sleep Foundation so you don't miss any important information.

Fix it: Keep the diary for one week, and then consult your doctor or a sleep specialist on what the findings can tell you.

More: 6 Tips for a Better Night's Sleep

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About the Author

Jessica Sanders

Jessica Sanders is the former online editor for ReserveAmerica.com. After many years of camping and hiking in the Northeast, she's exploring what the West has to offer and sharing all of her knowledge with you. She's a s'mores master, campsite connoisseur, writer, runner and lover of all things outdoors. Follow her on Google+

Jessica Sanders is the former online editor for ReserveAmerica.com. After many years of camping and hiking in the Northeast, she's exploring what the West has to offer and sharing all of her knowledge with you. She's a s'mores master, campsite connoisseur, writer, runner and lover of all things outdoors. Follow her on Google+

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