September 19, 2011

Insomnia Runs in the Family

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Joseph V. Madia, MD By:

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Sleeping disorders may be genetic

(dailyRx News) For insomniacs, falling asleep and staying asleep can be very challenging, and the side effects of daytime drowsiness, difficulty concentrating and impaired motor coordination can be debilitating.

Their family members also have reason for concern. For the immediate families of insomniacs, the risk of developing the sleep disorder themselves is 67 percent higher than in the general population.

"Sibblings of insomniacs should watch for their own symptoms."

A study at the Université Laval’s School of Psychology in Quebec surveyed 3,485 people about the sleep habits of themselves and their immediate families, over a one year period. The results showed that 40 percent of the respondents reported at least one family member with insomnia.

For those respondents, their own risk of insomnia was much higher. And for every additional member of the family with insomnia, the risk for other members increased dramatically. With one insomniac family member, the risk was 37 percent for the other members to develop insomnia; but if there were two insomniacs in the family, that risk jumped to 250 percent. Three insomniac family members meant a 314 percent risk for the rest of the family.

Charles M. Morin, head of the research team, said that there was most likely a genetic factor at work, but that it was unknown if the problem was a physiological sleep factor or a predisposition to anxiety. He added that strong attitudes toward dealing with insomnia could be shared among family members.

"This type of behavior can transform situational insomnia into a chronic condition,” Morin said.

The research was presented at the 4th World Congress on Sleep Medicine in September 2011.

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Reviewed by: 
Joseph V. Madia, MD
Review Date: 
September 19, 2011

Last Updated:
September 19, 2011