Insomnia (Sleepless Nights)

Who Gets Insomnia?

Over 90 percent of people experience some degree of insomnia at some point in their lives. Studies indicate that insomnia affects one in three adults every year in the United States.

Several factors increase a person’s chances of developing insomnia:

  • Gender. In general, insomnia is more common in women than men. However, older men have more disrupted sleep than older women.
  • Age. As a person ages, sleep becomes more fragmented. Complaints of insomnia are much more frequent in people over age 65 than in younger individuals.
  • Medical conditions and medication. People who have arthritis, ulcers, urinary disorders, heart conditions, and other conditions that cause pain or discomfort, are more likely to get insomnia. In addition, insomnia is a side effect of many common medications, including over-the-counter medicines that contain caffeine.
  • Childhood fears. One study found that people who had experienced long-term insomnia had been prone to nightmares and fear of the dark as children.
  • Lifestyle. People who travel frequently and cross time zones, as well as night-shift workers, are at higher risk. Smoking, overuse of alcohol or other stimulants, and high caffeine intake also contribute. A new phenomenon that is contributing to insomnia is Internet addiction.

Nice To Know:

Motherhood seems to lead most women to develop a high sensitivity to the sounds of their children, which causes them to wake easily. Women who have had children sleep less efficiently than women who have not had children. Some researchers believe that many women never unlearn this sensitivity and continue to wake easily long after the children have grown.

Aging And Insomnia

As people get older, they tend to sleep less, and their sleep stages also change. Though normal, these changes often make older people think they’re not getting enough sleep.

An early morning awakening pattern – in which people fall asleep normally but wake up several hours after and are unable to fall asleep again – is more common in the elderly. In some cases, early morning awakening may be a sign of depression.

Experts believe a number of factors may influence sleep in the elderly, including:

  • Naturally reduced levels of melatonin, the hormone that helps control sleep
  • Sensitivity to environmental disruptions, such as noise
  • Illnesses that cause pain or discomfort
  • Neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease

    For more detailed information about Parkinson’s disease, go to Parkinson’s Disease.

  • Medication with side effects that include insomnia
  • Grief, depression, and anxiety, to which the elderly are especially prone

Need To Know:

Sleep loss is not an inevitable part of aging, however. Treatments for insomnia are just as effective for older people as for younger people. In addition, regular exercise can contribute to healthy and restful sleep.


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