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  • Risk Factors for Insomnia

    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:

    Advanced Age

    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

    Chronic disease and pain can cause insomnia for a variety of reasons.


    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.

    Psychological Factors

    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.

    Lifestyle Behaviors

    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.


    ABCs of ZZZs—when you can’t sleep. National Sleep Foundation website. Available at: http://www.sleepfoundation.org/site/c.huIXKjM0IxF/b.2453615/apps/nl/content3.asp?content%5Fid={1636C27B-B123-4CEE-BE7D-FABE706709E7}&notoc=1 . Accessed May 15, 2007.

    Czeisler CA, Winkelman JW, Richardson GS. Sleep disorders. In: Harrison’s Internal Medicine. 16th ed. McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc; 2005.

    Insomnia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php . Updated July 9, 2012. Accessed August 13, 2012.

    Insomnia: quick answers to medical diagnosis and therapy. Access Medicine website. Available at: http://www.accessmedicine.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/quickam.aspx . Accessed December 5, 2009.

    McCarty DE, Chession, AL. Insomnia. In: Gilman S, editor. Medlink website. Available at: http://www.medlink.com . Accessed December 4, 2009.

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

    National Sleep Foundation website. Available at: http://www.sleepfoundation.org/ .

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

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