Insomnia may be the primary problem, or it may be associated with other conditions.
Chronic insomnia is usually a result of stress, life events or habits that disrupt sleep. Treating the underlying cause can resolve insomnia, but sometimes it can last for years.
Common causes of chronic insomnia include:
- Travel or work schedule
- Poor sleep habits
- Eating too much late in the evening
Chronic insomnia may also be associated with medical conditions or the use of certain drugs. Treating the medical condition may help improve sleep, but the insomnia may persist after the medical condition improves.
Additional common causes of insomnia include:
- Mental health disorders
- Medical conditions
- Sleep-related disorders
- Caffeine, nicotine and alcohol
Insomnia and aging
Insomnia becomes more common with age. As you get older, you may experience:
Changes in sleep patterns. Sleep often becomes less restful as you age, so noise or other changes in your environment are more likely to wake you. With age, your internal clock often advances, so you get tired earlier in the evening and wake up earlier in the morning. But older people generally still need the same amount of sleep as younger people do.
Changes in activity. You may be less physically or socially active. A lack of activity can interfere with a good night’s sleep. Also, the less active you are, the more likely you may be to take a daily nap, which can interfere with sleep at night.
Changes in health. Chronic pain from conditions such as arthritis or back problems as well as depression or anxiety can interfere with sleep. Issues that increase the need to urinate during the night ― such as prostate or bladder problems ― can disrupt sleep. Sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome become more common with age.
More medications. Older people typically use more prescription drugs than younger people do, which increases the chance of insomnia associated with medications.
Insomnia in children and teens
Sleep problems may be a concern for children and teenagers as well. However, some children and teens simply have trouble getting to sleep or resist regular bedtime because their internal clocks are more delayed. They want to go to bed later and sleep later in the morning.
Nearly everyone has an occasional sleepless night. But your risk of insomnia is greater if:
Sleep is as important to your health as a healthy diet and regular physical activity. Whatever your reason for sleep loss, insomnia can affect you both mentally and physically. People with insomnia report a lower quality of life compared with people who are sleeping well.
Complications of insomnia may include:
- Lower performance on the job or at school
- Slowed reaction time while driving and a higher risk of accidents
- Mental health disorders, such as depression, an anxiety disorder or substance abuse
- Increased risk and severity of long-term diseases or conditions, such as high blood pressure and heart disease
Good sleep habits can help prevent insomnia and promote sound sleep:
- Keep your bedtime and wake time consistent from day to day, including weekends
- Stay active — regular activity helps promote a good night’s sleep
- Check your medications to see if they may contribute to insomnia
- Avoid or limit naps
- Avoid or limit caffeine and alcohol, and don’t use nicotine
- Avoid large meals and beverages before bedtime
- Make your bedroom comfortable for sleep and only use it for sex or sleep
- Create a relaxing bedtime ritual, such as taking a warm bath, reading or listening to soft music