Sleep problems can be linked to a wide range of factors, and the main causes of sleep problems are usually associated with either your lifestyle, your physical or your mental health.

The most common causes of sleep problems linked to your lifestyle are:

• a poor sleep routine – going to bed too early or too late on a regular basis, or not
relaxing properly before bed

• a poor sleep environment – sleeping somewhere uncomfortable, or
with too much light or noise

• changes to sleep patterns – working night shifts or sleeping in a new
place can be a problem if your body doesn’t adjust to the new routine or environment

• alcohol, drugs and stimulants – (including caffeine and
nicotine) can make having a good sleep much more difficult

The most common causes of sleep problems linked to your mental health are:

• unhelpful psychological associations – developing anxieties or
phobias about going to sleep after a period of poor sleep, or
associating the bedroom with a place to be active and productive in

• stress, worry and anxiety – feeling worried about a specific issue,
such as work, money, family or relationships; or a specific event, such
as an interview or appointment can make it harder for our minds to switch off and rest

• trauma – after experiencing a traumatic event,
such as an accident or a bereavement or abuse, can cause long term sleep problems, particularly if the trauma happened during childhood

• mental health problems

The most common causes of sleep problems linked to your physical health are:

• physical illness – being uncomfortable or in pain, having a physical
sleep condition such as snoring or sleep apnoea (problems breathing
while sleeping), or having a hormone or neurological disorder such as
an overactive thyroid or Parkinson’s disease

• medication – can have side effects that will impact your sleeping negatively, such as epilepsy and asthma drugs, or antidepressants


Author: Sarah Speziali, Chief Therapist at InsideOut