Risk Factors for Developing Insomnia

Posted by Tyler Britton on May 24, 2019 8:00:00 AM

Risk factors for developing insomnia - Anchorage sleep Center

What is a Risk Factor for Insomnia?

A risk factor is simply something that increased your likelihood of developing a disease or condition. Insomnia, like other sleep disorders, has a number of different potential causes and factors that can make you at risk for developing insomnia.

Complicating matters is the fact there are two types of insomnia:

  • Primary insomnia – insomnia as a direct result of something else
  • Secondary insomnia – insomnia with no clear, underlying issue

Adding to this is that there are two modes of insomnia as well, which concerns how long insomnia lasts:

  • Acute insomnia – short term, a month or less
  • Chronic insomnia – symptomatic, long term (at least three times per week for a month or more)

Types of Insomnia

Here is a bit more information about the types of insomnia:

Secondary insomnia means that you have insomnia as a direct result or symptom of something else, such as a health condition, medication, pain, substance abuse, etc. For example, depression can be an underlying cause for insomnia.

Primary insomnia is the opposite of secondary insomnia, and means that your trouble sleeping is not directly related to some other underlying issue.

While these terms are convenient and in many cases clear cut, it’s also easy to see that the line can become blurred. For example, in the case where both insomnia and depression are present, the question becomes, “Which comes first?”

Acute insomnia is short-term, such as dealing with insomnia for up to a month. Chronic insomnia is symptomatic long term (defined as insomnia at least three nights per week for a month or more)

So in total you have 4 expressions of insomnia:

  • Secondary/acute insomnia – temporary insomnia in response to a temporary illness, stress, etc.
  • Primary/acute insomnia – temporary insomnia for no discernable reason
  • Secondary/chronic insomnia – chronic insomnia in response to (usually) chronic life problem such as pain, long term illness, etc.
  • Primary/chronic insomnia – chronic insomnia with no discernable cause

With these in mind, here are primary risk factors for insomnia.

Risk Factors for Insomnia

Treatment for insomnia - Anchorage Sleep Center

Age Risk Factors for Insomnia

As we age, our sleep cycles change. Namely, we tend to go to bed earlier, wake up earlier, and require naps during the day. People over the age of 60-65 are more likely to have insomnia and report trouble with sleep.

This is likely due to natural biological changes, and also because as we age we are more likely to take certain medications that affect sleep.

Disease Risk Factors for Insomnia

Many diseases can affect our ability to sleep, and make us at risk for developing insomnia:

  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • Lung disease
  • Arthritis
  • Heart disease
  • Heavy smoking
  • Sleep apnea
  • Restless leg syndrome (RLS)
  • Addiction
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Mental disease

Medication Risk Factors for Insomnia

Certain medications cause insomnia (primary) as a side effect, and include:

  • Diet pills
  • Steroids
  • High blood pressure medications
  • Theophylline
  • Phenytoin
  • Levadopa
  • Decongestants

Gender Risk Factors for Insomnia

Insomnia is more common in women than men. Biological aspects of being female like pregnancy, premenstrual syndrome, and menopause can increase your risk for developing insomnia.

Psychological Risk Factors for Insomnia

Psychological factors are some of the most common root factors for developing primary insomnia, and include:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Stress from marriage/job/health issues

Lifestyle Factors for Insomnia

Lastly, insomnia is also commonly caused by lifestyle choices that make sleep difficult, such as:

  • Shift work
  • Poor pre-sleep habits (screens, diet)
  • Drinking before bed
  • Drinking too much coffee
  • Jet lag
  • Poor sleep environment – noisy, bright, distractions, etc.
  • Exercising close to bed time

If you live in Alaska and are worried that you are struggling with insomnia, please contact one of our sleep specialists.

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Topics: Insomnia

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