Dealing with insomnia: Part 2

Insomnia is essentially difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep and affects over 30 percent of adults. There are different causes of insomnia. I will attempt a mammoth task to simplify and describe some causes with a clear intention of helping the reader take positive action in preventing and alleviating it. Starting with common medical conditions that can have a negative sleep consequence.

Examples are:

  • Nasal/sinus allergies
  • Gastric reflux and ulcers
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Chronic pain
  • Some medications used for common aliments like:
  • Common cold
  • Nasal allergies
  • High blood pressure
  • Thyroid disease
  • Asthma

Hence it is necessary to be open to your psychiatrist which medication you are on during assessment.

Primary sleep disorders can cause insomnia like:

Restless legs syndrome: a condition in which a person has an uncomfortable sensation of needing to move his or her legs in bed.

Sleep apnea: Is when person’s airway becomes partially or completely obstructed during sleep, leading to pauses in breathing and a drop in oxygen levels. This causes a person to wake up briefly to breath but repeatedly throughout the night.

Anxiety is one of the things that score big as a cause of insomnia:




Let me now discuss simple steps that can be taken to improve sleep by explaining how specific lifestyles and unhealthy sleep habits can lead to insomnia.

Working at home in the evenings. This can make it hard to unwind, and it can also make you feel preoccupied when it comes time to sleep. The light from your computer could also make your brain more alert.

Not taking power naps (even if they are short) in the afternoon.

Sleeping late can confuse your body’s clock and make it difficult to fall asleep again the following night.

Shift work can confuse your body’s clock, especially if you are trying to sleep during the day, or if your schedule changes periodically.

Alcohol before bedtime. Alcohol will make you fall asleep initially, but may disrupt your sleep later in the night.

Caffeine use stimulates your brain and remains alert.

Nicotine is the other stimulant and can cause insomnia. Smoking close to bedtime can make it hard to fall asleep and to sleep well through the night.

Heavy meals close to bedtime can disrupt your sleep. The best practice is to eat lightly before bedtime.

It is important to talk to your psychiatrist to figure out the cause of and a course of action because you should not simply accept poor sleep as a way of life!!!!!

DISCLAIMER: This column contains information about mental health related issues. However, the information is not advice, and should not be treated as such. The writer accepts no responsibility for misuse and misrepresentation caused by the use or misunderstanding of this article. No warranties or assurances are made.

Dr S.M. Chirisa is a passionate mental health specialist who holds an undergraduate medical degree and postgraduate Master’s degree in psychiatry, both from the UZ. He is currently working as a Senior Registrar in the Department of Psychiatry at Parirenyatwa Group of Hospitals and is also the current national treasurer of the Zimbabwe Medical association (ZiMA). He can be reached at

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