Insomnia can involve:
- trouble getting to sleep
- staying asleep
- waking up too early
It leaves you tired and makes it difficult to function well during the day. Insomnia can be the cause or the result of other health problems, and it can affect anyone.
Insomnia is a common problem. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) reports that when it comes to insomnia among adults:
- 30 to 35 percent have brief symptoms of insomnia
- 15 to 20 percent have short-term insomnia lasting less than 3 months
- 10 percent have a chronic insomnia disorder, which occurs at least 3 times per week for at least 3 months
- Age. You’re more likely to have insomnia as you grow older.
- Family history and genetics. Certain genes may affect sleep patterns.
- Environment. Shift work, night work, and jet lag can affect the sleep-wake cycle as well as nighttime noise or light and uncomfortably high or low temperatures.
- Stress. Worry raises the risk of insomnia. Worrying about not getting enough sleep can make it worse.
- Sex. More women than men get insomnia, possibly due to hormonal changes. Pregnancy and menopause can also play a role.
Other lifestyle factors that increase the risk for insomnia include:
- Changing your sleep routine often.
- Being interrupted during sleep.
- Taking long naps during the day.
- Not getting enough exercise.
- Using caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, or certain drugs.
- Using electronic devices too close to bedtime.
In 2019, an AASM survey found that a primary culprit of sleep restriction is binge-watching TV. Of the 2,003 adults who answered the survey:
- 88 percent lost sleep to watch multiple episodes of a TV or streaming series
- 72 percent of adults ages 18 to 34 and 35 percent of those age 35 and older lost sleep to play video games
- 66 percent lost sleep due to reading
- 60 percent missed sleep to watch sports
Sleep disturbances can occur in response to major stressful events, such as natural disasters and violence or war.
The COVID-19 pandemic sparked a worldwide crisis that appears to have affected our sleep. A
In 2020, an observational study found that post-9/11 veterans are especially vulnerable to insomnia, with 57.2 percent screening positive for insomnia disorder.
There’s also a two-way relationship between sleep disorders and depression. About
Lack of sleep, even in the short term, can negatively affect:
- work or school performance
- memory, concentration, and decision-making
- chronic pain
- decreased immune response
- heart problems
- high blood pressure
- mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression
- metabolic syndrome, diabetes
- overweight, obesity
- pregnancy complications
- substance use disorders
- A person who sleeps on average less than 6 hours per night has a 13 percent higher mortality risk.
- A person who sleeps between 6 and 7 hours per night has a 7 percent higher mortality risk.
These stats include all causes of death, including car accidents, strokes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease.
A recent study involving 487,200 people in China looked at insomnia risk over a period of about 10 years. Participants were an average age of 51 at the start of the study and had no history of stroke or heart disease.
Those who had three common insomnia symptoms (trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, waking too early, or trouble focusing during the day) were 18 percent more likely to develop stroke, heart attack, and similar diseases than those who didn’t have insomnia symptoms.
- $299 billion to $434 billion in 2020
- $330 billion to $467 billion in 2030
Data from the
- benzodiazepine receptor agonists, such as:
- nonbenzodiazepine receptor agonists, including:
- eszopiclone (Lunesta)
- zaleplon (Sonata)
- zolpidem (Ambien)
- melatonin receptor agonists, such as ramelteon (Rozerem)
- histamine receptor agonists, such as doxepin (Silenor)
- orexin receptor agonists, including suvorexant (Belsomra) and lemborexant (Dayvigo)
Other medications, such as antidepressants, are sometimes prescribed off-label for treatment of insomnia.
That means a doctor prescribes a drug for a use that’s not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) because they judge that it is medically appropriate for their patient. And some nonprescription antihistamines and supplements, like melatonin, are used as sleep aids.
Prescription and nonprescription sleep aids and supplements can cause side effects and interact with other medications. Most are intended for short-term use.
Always speak with your doctor before taking them.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an
Other therapies for insomnia are:
- talk therapy
- relaxation or meditation
- sleep education
- sleep restriction therapy
- stimulus control therapy
- light therapy
Some healthy habits can make it easier to get to sleep and stay asleep. These include:
- Going to bed at the same time every night and getting up at the same time every morning, if possible.
- Keeping the bedroom cool, quiet, and free from artificial light sources, such as electronic devices.
- Avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco in the evening and not eating a heavy meal in the hours before bedtime.
- Getting regular exercise during the day but not within 5 or 6 hours of bedtime.
- Avoiding afternoon naps.
- Taking an hour before bedtime to wind down and relax.
If you have had symptoms of insomnia for 2 weeks and cannot get back on track, consider making an appointment with a primary care physician.
Insomnia can be both a symptom of and a cause of a variety of serious health conditions. Depending on your symptoms and physical examination, your doctor may refer you to a specialist to help get you the right treatment for your needs.