Similar to eating a healthy diet, getting adequate restorative sleep can greatly improve the quality of your life. Unfortunately, insomnia is one of the most common sleep disorders. Signs of insomnia can appear as difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up unnecessarily early. For some people, insomnia is a temporary, stress-related issue; for others, it can be a chronic condition that may require treatment. People with insomnia often have trouble focusing, making them more at risk for accidents.1 There are a number of factors that can make you susceptible to developing insomnia, including your age, your gender, the schedule of your work shifts, the medications you take, and underlying conditions.
Trouble sleeping can happen at any age for anyone, but there are certain characteristics, genetics, and lifestyles that put you at risk for developing insomnia.
As you get older, you have an increased risk of developing insomnia. This is due in part to a general age-related decrease in the functioning of the body, and the increased likelihood of taking medications that interfere with sleep.2
Psychiatric illnesses, mood disorders, or other underlying medical conditions can further put one at risk for insomnia. Chronic anxiety and depression are two common conditions that can predispose someone to insomnia. This often leads people to ruminate on their thoughts before bed, and be unable to unwind and relax enough to sleep. In some cases, anxiety predisposes one to insomnia, and in some cases, insomnia can heighten the likelihood of anxiety. Having other medical conditions can also heighten the risk of insomnia, either as a side effect of the condition itself or due to medications used to treat it.
Some studies have shown that insomnia may be genetic, and if people in your family suffer from insomnia, you might be at higher risk for developing it. Women are also much more likely than men to develop insomnia. This is partially because women often experience sleep disturbances that occur with changing hormonal levels due to PMS, menopause, or pregnancy.3
Work environment and stressful life events often have a distinct positive correlation with one’s susceptibility for insomnia. Some major risk factors include having a high-stress job, experiencing distressful life events, and maintaining poor sleep hygiene. People who work night shifts or who work long and erratic hours are also at higher risk for insomnia.
Your sleeping environment or bed can also affect your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. If your room is loud or very bright, it can heighten the risk of insomnia for you. Some useful tips to fall asleep include relaxing before bed, creating a calming sleep environment, and reducing screen time before bed.
There are several insomnia types, and each type indicates its duration and severity. Acute insomnia, which is defined as short-term insomnia, can often go away on its own. If you suffer from chronic insomnia, you may need treatment in order to manage it. Insomnia treatments can range in type from therapy (such as cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, or CBT-1) to prescription sleeping pills.
Different of insomnia types have different causes. Often, the cause of acute insomnia can be pinned to a particular stressful event or lifestyle. But chronic insomnia, particularly insomnia that develops in childhood, is considered idiopathic and cannot be pegged to other medical causes.4
If you are experiencing traumatic life events or intense life stressors, this can make you prone to acute insomnia. Suffering from another comorbidity, whether it is a psychiatric illness or physical one, can also make you prone to insomnia.
Common risk factors for insomnia include being older, having insomnia in your family, and being female. Environmental risk factors can range from feeling stressed to having intense working conditions. The presence of other pre-existing medical conditions can also be an insomnia risk factor.
There are many ways to improve sleep and the best treatment often depends on the individual's specific needs. One treatment that has been successful is cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-1). CBT-1 can provide you with relaxation techniques, sleep hygiene training, and alter negative attitudes surrounding sleep.5
© 2021 American Sleep Association.