Most people, at one time or another, have experienced sleep problems but it is very individual what causes insomnia. There are actually two different forms of insomnia, primary (when insomnia not occurring as the side effect of another condition but it is disorder in itself) and secondary (when insomnia occurs as a side effect or symptom of something else). The inability to fall or stay in sleep, characterize, both, primary and secondary insomnia.
Two main categories of risks are contributed to insomnia, those that you can change and those that you can’t. These variables are out of your control, but it’s important to know what has been associated with the development of insomnia, although you can’t do anything to change them.
Your age. As you get older you are more likely to experience sleeping problems. For example, after age 40 your sleep patterns change, resulting in a harder time staying asleep or more awakenings during the middle of the night.
Your gender. Among women, insomnia is more common. Experts aren’t exactly sure why, some theories include:
- Women experience more extreme hormonal changes (from menstruation to pregnancy to menopause).
- Women wake up more often during the night because they are more sensitive to the sounds of their own children.
- Women are at higher risk for conditions such as anxiety and depression that can result in secondary insomnia.
Your socioeconomic status. In people of low socioeconomic status, insomnia is more common.
Your work hours. At a high risk for insomnia are shift workers who experience symptoms of insomnia several nights each week. Those whose shift hours change on a regular basis and shift workers over the age of 50 are even more prone to sleeping problems.
Your health history. Conditions that cause chronic pain (severe headaches, arthritis or fibromyalgia) can all disrupt sleep quantity and quality. Respiratory conditions (asthma), neurological disorders (such as Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s diseases), emotional disorders (posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety or depression), hyperthyroidism, gastrointestinal disorders (such as GERD or heartburn), heart failure (resulting in breathing problems and/or sleep apnea) are medical conditions that can cause secondary insomnia.
While you can’t change things like work hours or your health history, you can control the choices you make each day about how to care for yourself or what you eat, certain factors related to your lifestyle. These are areas of your life where you can take proactive steps to enhance your overall health and help prevent or treat insomnia.
Lifestyle changes alone may help you sleep better, but if you continue to experience problems, talk with your health care provider, especially those related to factors that you couldn’t control. In conjunction with the treatment plan laid out by your doctor, every small lifestyle change can help you improve your energy and health levels and sleep soundly.