Insomnia (cont.)

Who is at risk for insomnia?

Insomnia is a common disorder. It affects women more often than men. The disorder can occur at any age. However, older adults are more likely to have insomnia than younger people.

People who might be at increased risk for insomnia include those who:

  • Have a lot of stress.
  • Are depressed or have other emotional distress, such as divorce or death of a spouse.
  • Have lower incomes.
  • Work at night or have frequent major shifts in their work hours.
  • Travel long distances with time changes.
  • Have certain medical conditions or sleep disorders that can disrupt sleep.
  • Have an inactive lifestyle.

Young and middle-aged African Americans also might be at increased risk for insomnia. Research shows that, compared with Caucasian Americans, it takes African Americans longer to fall asleep. They also have lighter sleep, don't sleep as well, and take more naps. Sleep-related breathing problems also are more common among African Americans.

What are the signs and symptoms of insomnia?

The main symptom of insomnia is trouble falling or staying asleep, which leads to lack of sleep. If you have insomnia, you may:

  • Lie awake for a long time before you fall asleep
  • Sleep for only short periods
  • Be awake for much of the night
  • Feel as if you haven't slept at all
  • Wake up too early

The lack of sleep can cause other symptoms. You may wake up feeling tired or not well-rested, and you may feel tired during the day. You also may have trouble focusing on tasks. Insomnia can cause you to feel anxious, depressed, or irritable.

Insomnia also can affect your daily activities and cause serious problems. For example, you may feel drowsy while driving. Driver sleepiness (not related to alcohol) is responsible for almost 20 percent of all serious car crash injuries. Research also shows that insomnia raises older women's risk of falling.

If insomnia is affecting your daily activities, talk with your doctor. Treatment may help you avoid symptoms and problems related to the disorder. Also, poor sleep may be a sign of other health problems. Finding and treating those problems could improve your overall health and sleep.