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 years old 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 or take medications that disturb sleep.
Chronic diseases and associated pain may increase the risk of insomnia. Some conditions associated with insomnia include:
Certain medications can increase the risk of sleeping problems as a side effect. These may include:
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 to fall asleep on the job because of poor sleep quality than are employees with regular daytime hours.
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. 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.
Buysse DJ. Insomnia. JAMA. 2013;309(7):706-716.
Insomnia. Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians website. Available at: https://familydoctor.org/condition/insomnia. Updated July 2017. Accessed March 7, 2018.
Insomnia. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/insomnia. Accessed March 7, 2018.
Insomnia. National Sleep Foundation website. Available at: https://sleepfoundation.org/insomnia/home. Accessed March 7, 2018.
Insomnia in adults. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114839/Insomnia-in-adults. Updated June 5, 2017. Accessed March 7, 2018.
Last reviewed March 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Monica Zangwill, MD, MPH Last Updated: 3/15/2015