Is Insomnia Genetic or Environmental?

If you’ve spent sleepless evenings trying to get sleep by scrolling through social media, counting sheep, or reading ebooks, then you may have wondered what causes your insomnia and what you might do to put an end to your misery.

You are definitely not alone. This mystery sleep condition affects your physical and emotional health in every way, affecting as many as 20% of Americans.

The lack of sleep makes every day a struggle. Perhaps you, like many individuals with insomnia, close your eyes as your head touches the pillow, but you never seem to fall asleep. And instead, you lie awake at night, asking yourself, “Why me?”

What gives you such a hard time? What’s keeping you awake? Nothing you’ve tried so far seems to have worked; is there anything further you can do? Or did you get your inability to sleep from your parents and have to find a way to deal with it?

Insomnia is attributable, at least in part, to inherited factors, according to research into the human genome published in 2018. However, this does not eliminate the potential of receiving treatment for the serious sleeping issues you have.

Medical sleep experts can help you identify the best treatment for your unique case of insomnia, which can be difficult to diagnose and cure.

You shouldn’t have to assume that getting to sleep will always be a struggle. Insomnia is manageable and has solutions.

There are two different types of insomnia: acute and chronic. A bout of severe insomnia typically begins with a life event that is very distressing for the individual.

Your inability to fall or maintain sleep will grow into a chronic condition when the source of your stress transforms into the worry that you won’t be able to fall asleep when you go to bed.

Acute insomnia can be treated well before it develops into chronic sleeplessness. In addition, insomnia therapy remains the same regardless of whether or not a person has a familial susceptibility to the disorder.

In this article, find out if insomnia is a product of your genes or surroundings.

Is Insomnia Genetic?

Is Insomnia Genetic

Insomnia has been linked to genes, but several physiological and psychological variables can make it difficult to sleep or stay asleep. Some people, for instance, have trouble sleeping because they regularly consume coffee or energy beverages just before bedtime.

They have been doing this so often that they might not know that reducing their caffeine intake may be the “solution” for their insomnia.

However, many people may be biologically predisposed to suffer insomnia due to passing along specific genes from their parents. Sometimes this is because their genes make it difficult to enter REM sleep, and other times it’s because their genes signal their brains to shift into hyperdrive at night.

Insomnia may be cured regardless of a person’s genetic tendency. Therefore it’s not a hopeless condition only because of your DNA. Instead, insomnia may be controlled by finding the right treatment plan, which can be determined by speaking with a sleep specialist.

Genes And Genes Expression

Genes And Genes Expression

Knowing the distinction between genes and gene expression will help you understand how genetic makeup affects your susceptibility to insomnia. Nearly every cell in your body has chromosomes in its nucleus, where your genes are housed.

Over 20,000 unique genes in every human being contribute to defining our characteristics. DNA is the building block of genes; it specifies how proteins are to be synthesized and what they should accomplish for proper bodily function.

The general public tends to believe that one’s genetic makeup is crucial to their sense of identity. But unfortunately, although your genes lay the groundwork for your individuality, not all of your potential is realized.

To a greater extent than the genes themselves, gene expression determines a person’s behavior, psychology, and other non-biological traits.

The term “gene expression” refers to how certain segments of a person’s DNA are utilized. A gene’s expression is like an “on/off” switch, controlling the production of essential proteins and other biochemicals. The only thing genes do is provide directions for creating the proteins our bodies require to operate.

For instance, more cardio and strength proteins will be created if the corresponding genes are expressed if a person runs regularly or lifts weights frequently. In addition, organisms can respond to their surroundings thanks to gene expression.

To put it differently, a person’s genes might predispose them to develop insomnia. However, for the sleep problem to become apparent, a certain set of environmental variables must first “trigger” the on switch for the gene responsible for insomnia.

And although studies of families and twins reveal that insomnia is genetic, those who have experienced it can recover their regular sleep patterns.

Can Environmental Factors Affect Your Genes?

Can Environmental Factors Affect Your Genes

Even though your family history suggests you may be more susceptible to insomnia, this is not a guarantee.

The field of research known as epigenetics investigates how environmental variables may alter the expression of genes in living organisms.

A person’s sleep quality may be influenced by factors outside of the body, such as stress, nutrition, temperature, and even the people with whom they interact.

You’ve likely guessed that the situation is somewhat complicated.

Insomnia is not genetically inherited, but your susceptibility to developing the disorder is.

Gene expression theory sheds light on why heredity predicts susceptibility to insomnia rather than determining whether or not an individual would experience sleeplessness. Gene expression, rather than genetics, controls how well you sleep. Certain habits and actions can affect the expression of particular genes.

That doesn’t rule out the possibility of sleeplessness for someone with a familial susceptibility to the disorder. Therefore, people living with Insomnia should exercise extra caution before sleeping.

Some people may not think twice about checking their phones or watching TV before bed, but for you, doing so may activate the genes that cause you trouble falling asleep.

Fatal Familial Insomnia

Fatal Familial Insomnia

Fatal familial insomnia (FFI) is a rare inherited brain condition. It impacts the area of the brain in charge of regulating the sleep-wake cycle. The typical signs of this condition, aside from the inability to sleep regularly, include the following:

  • Psychiatric issues
  • Weight loss
  • Issues with balance
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Heavy sweating
  • Issues with thermoregulation (body temperature control)

The symptoms frequently intensify with time and result in severe emotional and physical issues. Therefore, clinical examinations, sleep studies, and imaging tests are all used by clinicians to identify FFI.

Most of the time, FFI affects persons with an inherited, particular PRNP gene variation. Genetic testing could provide further evidence in support of the diagnosis.

The PRNP gene controls the synthesis of the human prion protein. The prion protein is aberrant and harmful when this gene is mutated. These proteins cause nerve cells to start dying as they accumulate in the thalamus, the area of the brain responsible for the sleep-wake cycle, leading to many detrimental effects.

FFI is currently incurable. Doctors might prescribe treatment to control the symptoms and, as much as possible, enhance the patient’s quality of life.

Do You Have A Genetic Predisposition To Insomnia?

Do You Have A Genetic Predisposition To Insomnia

Yes and no. Scientists over time have uncovered numerous indications that genes may be to blame for insomnia. However, conducting more investigations can help get a definitive answer.

So far, a mix of general, individual, and environmental variables causes persistent insomnia.

Understanding the causes of this ailment and developing fresh care and preventative techniques are the major objectives of genetic research on insomnia.

It could create individualized treatment regimens to increase the likelihood that they would be successful. For instance, if researchers find that a particular gene affects how well insomnia treatments work.

In the future, it could be possible to utilize gene therapy to repair damaged genes or early intervention to change the risk genes.

Genetic Testing For Insomnia

Your doctor may recommend genetic testing if they suspect that a hereditary factor contributes to your insomnia. However, clinical genetic testing is rarely done by doctors unless you have a rare condition like FFI.

Once your physician has provided a diagnosis, you may either enroll in a research study or look for consumer firms that provide DNA testing. Remember that if genetic testing determines that you have sleep-disorder-related gene variants, you will still be treated the same way.

Before sleep experts can use genetic information to inform strategies for preventing and treating insomnia, there is a long way to go.

Additional Factors That Influence Gene Expression And Genes

Given that stress keeps millions of people awake, it’s hardly surprising that it’s also a major cause of inborn insomnia. However, although it’s obvious that stress and sleep deprivation go hand in hand, the biological mechanisms underlying this still need to be better understood.

Life-threatening or otherwise stressful experiences can modify gene expression and hence your DNA. Epigenetics describes such a change. There’s some proof that it runs in the family but can be fixed if caught early.

How the body reacts to stress and how it controls sleep patterns are two areas where epigenetics are being studied in depth.

Still, whether we’re talking about short-term or long-term insomnia or even how genes are expressed, the fact is that there’s usually something else going on. The onset of primary insomnia is often unexpected.

Insomnia is typically a secondary disorder that develops as a response to something else. Genealogical insomnia is a similar case. Although you could have a genetic predisposition to sleep problems, a more severe issue must manifest for those genes to be expressed.

In addition to stress, here is a list of some of the most prevalent reasons for hereditary insomnia.

1. Depression And Anxiety

Depression And Anxiety

Anxiety and depression are the two forms of mental illness that adults experience at the highest rates. As if being too tired wasn’t bad enough, these disorders can also disrupt your sleep schedule, making it harder to get to and remain asleep.

People with mental health issues like depression or anxiety are three times more likely to have a close relative with the same problem, according to the available data. Consequently, your sleeplessness may result from a hereditary mental health issue causing certain gene expressions.

2. Issues Relating to Health

Issues Relating to Health

Mood problems aren’t the only ones that can increase your risk of sleeplessness due to gene expression; physical conditions can, too. For example, insomnia symptoms are often inherited, and diabetes is among the most frequent inherited illnesses.

The negative effects of diabetes are exacerbated by sleep deprivation, which is a vicious cycle in and of itself.

The effects of sleep deprivation on the body are similar to those of insulin resistance caused by diabetes. High blood sugar levels result from the body’s decreased ability to respond to insulin, which decreases the amount of sugar converted to glucose and gets stored in the body.

There may be a strong connection between having a family history of diabetes and experiencing difficulties sleeping.

Wrapping Up

One’s genetic makeup might influence their susceptibility to insomnia. However, there is a great deal more that can be learned about the complexities of this topic.

The risk of developing insomnia is increased if insomnia runs in one’s family, but this is by no means a guarantee. In any case, it’s a good reminder to pay particular attention to your sleep hygiene if you want to minimize the risk.

Even if you or a member of your family has a history of sleep problems, you may still make efforts to improve the quality of your own sleep. Do not, however, sit about and hope that your insomnia will go away on its own.

If it is negatively impacting your quality of life, schedule an appointment with your primary care physician.

Your doctor can diagnose any underlying problems and offer advice on how to address them.

Sarah Wagner

I'm Sarah Wagner, and I founded Sweet Island Dreams in 2022. It's a blog dedicated to helping people mental vacation virtually anytime they want. By providing information about the best sleep of your life, I help people drift away to paradise without ever having to leave their bed!