The Takeaway

The major risk factors for insomnia are advancing age, family history of insomnia, female sex, lifestyle, and stress or worrying.

Insomnia is a common condition with several risk factors. Some are inherited, while others are the result of aging and/or lifestyle1,2. Do any of these risk factors apply to you?

  • Advancing age: the risk of insomnia increases as you age.
  • Family history of insomnia: your genetics can predispose you to insomnia and influence the depth of your sleep.
  • Sex: women are more likely to have insomnia than men.
  • Lifestyle: certain habits can increase the risk of insomnia. Some examples include taking long naps near bedtime, drinking excessive caffeine or alcohol or inhaling nicotine from smoking, and having an irregular sleep schedule.
  • Stress or worry: stress and worry about sleep or daily life can raise the risk of insomnia. As described by Dr. Drew Faust, the vicious cycle of losing sleep and worrying about sleep led to her insomnia worsening.
  • Medical and psychiatric disorders: medical disorders such as heart disease and asthma, and psychiatric disorders such as depression and anxiety are often associated with insomnia.

Insomnia and Social Factors

The social and physical environmental conditions in which people work, play, and live are factors that influence sleep duration and risk of sleep disturbances.3 Insomnia symptoms occur more frequently in poorer neighborhoods and those with higher crime rates. In addition, those persons living in urban areas are exposed to more nighttime light exposure, which negatively impacts melatonin release and the timing of their circadian rhythm leading to poorer sleep. Thus, where you live, learn, work and play impact your sleep.

Individuals with lower socioeconomic status and persons of color also have higher rates of insomnia. A major factors explaining this finding are health disparities, e.g., higher likelihood of other health conditions and living in poorer neighborhoods.


  1. Insomnia. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  2. Buysse DJ. Insomnia. JAMA. 2013;309(7):706-16. doi: 10.1001/jama.2013.193.
  3. Grandner MA, Williams NJ, Knutson KL, Roberts D, Jean-Louis G. Sleep disparity, race/ethnicity, and socioeconomic position. Sleep Med. 2016;18:7-18. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2015.01.020.