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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 diseases and associated pain may increase risk of insomnia. Some conditions include:

Certain medications can increase risk of sleeping problems as a side effect. These may include:

Insomnia occurs more often in women than in men. Pregnancy and hormonal shifts can disturb sleep. Other hormonal changes, such as premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or menopause, can also can affect sleep.

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 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.

Jet lag is the inability to sleep as a result of crossing many time zones in a short period of time. This can disturb your biological rhythms and deprive you of good sleep until your body can adjust to the new time zone.

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.

References:

Can't Sleep? What to know about insomnia. National Sleep Foundation website. Available at: http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-related-problems/insomnia-and-sleep. Accessed May 15, 2013.

Insomnia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what. Updated April 11, 2013. Accessed May 15, 2013.

Insomnia. Quick Answers to Medical Diagnosis and Therapy. Access Medicine website. Available at: http://accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aid=3267380. Accessed May 15, 2013

National Center on Sleep Disorders Research website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/about/ncsdr/index.htm. Accessed February 11, 2009.

Parmet S, Burke A, Glass RM. Insomnia. JAMA Patient Page. 2006;295(24).

Last reviewed May 2013 by Brian Randall, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.