A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.
It is possible to develop insomnia with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing insomnia. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.
Insomnia is often the result of a behavior or a symptom of an underlying mental or physical problem. These behaviors and conditions increase your risk of having insomnia. They include:
People over the age of 60-65 are more likely to have insomnia than younger people. Older people may be less likely to sleep soundly because of bodily changes related to aging and because they may have medical conditions that disturb sleep.
Chronic disease and pain can cause insomnia for a variety of reasons.
- Diabetes and kidney disease (can cause frequent urination that can disturb sleep)
- Chronic lung disease (can cause frequent waking due to decreased oxygen)
- Alzheimers disease and Parkinson disease (restlessness and frequent waking in the night)
- Heart disease (chest pain and difficulty breathing when lying down)
- Heavy smoking
- Gastrointestinal reflux disease (GERD) or an ulcer
- Sleep apnea (causes brief awakenings and excessive daytime sleepiness)
- Restless legs syndrome and other disorders (involuntary limb movements during sleep break up the normal sleep pattern and may make sleep less refreshing)
- Conditions that cause chronic pain (such as fibromyalgia, back pain)
- Pregnancy and hormonal shifts (can disturb sleep)
- Alcoholism or drug abuse
- Depression, mania, and anxiety
- Relationship stressors
Certain medicines can cause sleeping problems as a side effect. Having to take one or more of these drugs can lead to insomnia. Some of these medicines include:
Insomnia occurs more often in women than in men. Pregnancy and hormonal shifts can disturb sleep. Hormonal changes that cause premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and menopause (with its accompanying hot flashes) can also cause sleep disorders.
Stress is considered by most sleep experts to be the number one cause of short-term sleeping difficulties. Common triggers include school- or job-related pressures, a family or marriage problem, or a serious illness or death in the family. Insomnia is also a common symptom of anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder, and depression.
Habits and activities that you do during the day or night can interfere with getting a good night's sleep. These include:
- Smoking or using other tobacco products
- Drinking alcohol or beverages containing caffeine in the afternoon or evening
- Exercising close to bedtime
- Following an irregular morning and nighttime schedule
- Working or doing other mentally intense activities right before or after getting into bed
Night Shift Work
Night shift work forces you to try to sleep when activities around you and your own "biological rhythms" signal you to be awake. Shift workers are more likely than are employees with regular, daytime hours to fall asleep on the job because of poor sleep quality.
Long-range Jet Travel
Jet lag is the inability to sleep as a result of crossing many time zones in a short period of time, as when you travel by jet. This can disturb your biological rhythms and deprive you of good sleep until your body can adjust to the new time zone.
Poor Sleep Environment
A distracting sleep environment, such as a room that's too hot or cold, too noisy, or too brightly lit, can be a barrier to sound sleep. Interruptions from children or other family members can also disrupt sleep. Other influences may be the comfort and size of your bed and the habits of your sleep partner.
- Reviewer: Brian Randall, MD
- Review Date: 10/2012 -
- Update Date: 10/11/2012 -