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Insomnia Causes & Risks


There are many causes.

Transient and intermittent insomnia generally occur in people who are temporarily experiencing one or more of the following:

  • A life crisis or stress, including the loss of a life partner, divorce, or loss of a job
  • Environmental noise
  • Extreme temperatures (like a room that is too hot or too cold)
  • Change in the surrounding environment (one of the most common causes)
  • Sleep/wake schedule problems such as those due to jet lag
  • Hormonal shifts during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, perimenopause, or menopause
  • Side effects of medicine
    • Nonprescription: diet aids, decongestants, cold and cough remedies
    • Prescription: steroids, theophylline, phenytoin (Dilantin), levodopa

Chronic insomnia sometimes results from the following conditions:

Chronic insomnia may also be due to behavioral factors, including:

  • Misuse of caffeine, alcohol, or other substances
  • Disrupted sleep/wake cycles from shift work or other nighttime activities
  • Chronic stress

In addition, the following behaviors have been shown to perpetuate insomnia in some people:

  • Expecting to have difficulty sleeping and worrying about it—usually starts in young adults
  • Smoking cigarettes before bedtime
  • Excessive napping in the afternoon or evening

Insufficient Sleep Syndrome

This results from a person not getting enough sleep due to life circumstances. The person may be working more than one job or working and going to school at the same time. As a result they do not get enough sleep every day, over a longer period of time. This may lead to daytime sleepiness. It can also lead to problems with focus and muscle aches and pains.

Risk Factors

Factors that increase your chance of getting a disease or condition:

  • Age: 50 or older
  • Sex: female (especially during and after menopause)
  • Stress
  • A history of mental disorders such as anxiety and depression
  • Chronic pain
  • Alcohol, drugs, or certain medicines
  • Shift work
  • Obesity
  • Use of multiple medications

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Copyright © 2024 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.

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