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Causes of Sudden Restless Sleep & Insomnia

By Bryan Myers ; Updated August 14, 2017

Insomnia is a pervasive problem in modern life. A 2010 survey by C. M. Baldwin and associates published in the "Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine" indicated that 30% of their sample experienced insomnia. This patient group also reported worse physical health, which suggests that these two variables may be related. The factors underlying poor sleep often prove difficult to determine. Yet new research suggests three possible causes.

Lifestyle Choices

According to the website "Sleep Education," sleep can be enhanced by following common-sense advice. For example, it remains important to maintain regular routines and schedules avoid stimulating activities and chemicals and create a rest-facilitating bedroom free of noises and distractions. A 2002 paper by F. C. Brown and co-workers offered in "Behavioral Medicine" revealed that irregular sleep schedules, going to bed thirsty, environmental noise and worrying while falling asleep contributed to poor sleep quality in healthy college students. Thus, insomnia can result from poor lifestyle choices.

Psychological Problems

The results of a 2009 experiment by G. A. Brenes and colleagues offered in the "American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry" indicated that 90% of patients with general anxiety disorder or those with depression regularly suffered from insomnia. These authors also noted that sleep was worse in older people, which likely reflects the age-related increase in health-related issues. L. Belanger and co-workers presented a paper in the 2004 edition of "Journal of Anxiety Disorders" which supports the role of psychological conditions in insomnia. These researchers found that alleviating anxiety improved rest despite sleep not being specifically targeted by the treatments.

Medical Conditions

A 2010 survey by M. Enomoto and associates published in "General Hospital Psychiatry" looked at people who were hospitalized for medical conditions not directly related to sleep issues. They found that more than 60% of all the 557 inpatients they studied in their sample had insomnia. These researchers also noted that other sleep disorders were often present as well. One third of these patients received hypnotic medications to treat their poor sleep, but these drugs proved effective for less than half of that group. Thus, medical conditions may contribute to poor rest, and simply treating the sleep issues may not prove effective.

Reverse Effects

A 2010 paper by D. J. Buysse and co-workers presented in "Sleep Medicine Reviews" looked at this issue from the reverse perspective. These authors wanted to determine whether treating insomnia would alleviate certain problems. Their review cited convincing evidence showing that effectively managing insomnia improved psychological conditions such as depression. Yet more data is needed concerning the role of sleep in other situations.

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