Sleep Health

Is Insomnia Hereditary – A Comprehensive Answer to One of the Most Intriguing Questions

June 20, 2023
Cecelia Beringer

Insomnia is one of the most frustrating diseases one could suffer from. The difficulty in falling asleep can directly affect the quality of life you are leading. It impacts productivity and can cause long-term behavioral changes, increasing the risk of developing mood disorders.

According to research by Ruth M. Benca, and Michael J. Peterson(2008), people with insomnia are ten times more likely to develop depression. That's a disturbing fact, but the question commonly raised here is, “Is Insomnia hereditary?”. The answer is more complicated than you could have imagined it to be.

In this article, we will shed light on the complex answer to this intriguing question. So, why wait for more? Let’s dive into the article to find the answer!

What’s Insomnia?

Before getting straight into the answer of “Is Insomnia hereditary?” Let's first have a look at the description of what insomnia actually is!

Insomnia refers to a sleep-wake disorder that disrupts your sleeping patterns significantly. There are three types of insomnia:

  • SOL insomnia - Sleep Onset Insomnia is the most common type, in which a person struggles to fall asleep.

  • WASO insomnia - Sleep Maintenance Insomnia is when a person fails to maintain continuous sleep throughout the night without waking up. For example, they usually wake up after every half an hour or so.

  • EMA insomnia - Early Morning Awakening Insomnia is when the patient wakes up before getting enough sleep, i.e., at least seven hours.

Are you thinking, “This sounds familiar”? No need to worry, this disease affects many people in the U.S. According to Manber, Rachel, and Andrea S. Chambers, 33% of adults seem to suffer from insomnia symptoms, however, only 6% of them meet insomnia criteria.  

Can Insomnia be Hereditary?

A comprehensive answer to this question is that your genes might pre-expose you to insomnia but they don’t ensure that you will develop it. There are some genes that can increase your risk and some that hamper the risk of developing insomnia. According to Hammerschlag, Anke R., genes account for 31% to 58% of your risk of getting insomnia.

The influence of genes on insomnia development is not that surprising, as genes control every function of our body. Genes decide our traits, habits, and behavioral responses. They are even responsible for traits like whether you are an early bird or a night owl!

Is Insomnia Hereditary – What the experts say

Currently, genetic testing to find footprint genes for insomnia is done for only research purposes. No medical experts are conducting studies in a clinical setting; instead, they rely on the International Classification of Sleep Disorders criteria for diagnosing insomnia. If someone still needs to determine the cause of the insomnia they are experiencing, they might choose to do DNA testing.

The first interest of the researchers was to figure out which genes are directly linked with causing insomnia.  In the study by Jacqueline M. Lane, they figured out that there are 57 gene regions linked directly with insomnia symptoms. To their surprise, these gene areas weren’t directly involved in sleep regulation but were strongly linked with specific protein-destroying processes. These gene regions are also linked with neurotransmitters and hormones playing a role in the circadian rhythm.

The Difference between Gene and Gene Expression

Before getting into further details, it’s necessary to understand the difference between genes and gene expression. Genes are the main hereditary component in everyone’s gene pool. According to Jennifer Ackerman, each of us features around 20000 to 250000 genes in our body, located on the chromosomes of our cell’s nucleus.  These genes control the production of proteins and decide what these proteins will function for.

On the other hand, there is gene expression, the determination of whether or not the instructions carried out in genes will be followed.

For example, when asleep, the arousal system is switched off by the gene expression of some genes, enabling you to enjoy a comfortable sleep. With people living with insomnia, gene expression might be restricted, and genes fail to send signals to certain neurons. As a result, the arousal system remains switched on, and the person fails to enjoy a peaceful sleep.

You might have heard that diabetes is hereditary, and those who have inherited the risk are often told to be cautious with their sugar intake and diet.  This is done to minimize the risk of getting diabetes. Hereditary Insomnia is similar in this way, with those at risk having to be extra careful about their sleep hygiene.

Interesting Facts About Hereditary Insomnia

The Genome-Wide Association Studies (GWAS) study has developed the following interesting genes-related facts about insomnia.

  • A study of twins has shown that women get more of the heritability of insomnia from their parents than men. Insomnia is an X-linked trait. This makes women far more likely to develop insomnia than men, according to Lane, J.M., Jones, S.E., Dashti, H.S (2016).

  • Several insomnia conditions are directly linked to the same genes that make a person vulnerable to diseases like restless legs syndrome, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases (according to Sogol Javaheri and Susan Redline).

  • Depression and stress are factors that are more likely to affect a person with genetic markers for insomnia. This is because insomnia is a hyperarousal disorder whose development gets triggered by certain factors.

Environmental factors behind Insomnia

Getting insomnia genes from parents doesn't guarantee that you will get the disease; several environmental factors act to trigger their gene expression. This is called epigenetics. For example, stress, temperature, diet, and more are responsible for determining how your genes function.

Is Insomnia a Symptom of Other Health Issues?

Yes, Insomnia mainly occurs in conjunction with other health issues that trigger insomnia-related symptoms.  Usually, insomnia signifies a chronic underlying condition that must be treated.

These diseases can be from simple seasonal flu and fever to more severe chronic diseases. Some of them are listed below:


It’s a hereditary illness, with insomnia as a symptom. Both insomnia and diabetes are closely linked in multiple aspects. For instance, sleep loss can intensify diabetes in a vicious cycle. Moreover, our bodies’ reaction to insomnia is similar to the condition where the body develops insulin resistance.

This resistance means less sugar is transformed into glucose and stored in the body. This leads to less sugar usage and, eventually, the high sugar level in the blood that can trigger more chronic issues other than insomnia.  However, if your family has a diabetic history and you suffer from sleep disturbances, it's suggested that you consult with sleep specialists now, as your sleep issues might be linked with underlying undiagnosed diabetes.

Depression and Anxiety

Depression and Anxiety affect around 20% of the U.S. population. Insomnia is a symptom of both of these mental illnesses. These can be severe enough to give patients suicidal thoughts or make them more prone to physical ailments. Although not proven by research, depression and anxiety both have a genetic background.

What Can You Do to Reduce Your Risk of Getting Insomnia?

You can reduce your risk of getting insomnia by focusing on good sleep hygiene. Be sure to plan a proper sleep schedule, making sure to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day.

There are some additional things you can do to fall asleep quicker. These include turning off your electronic devices like mobile phones, TVs, etc., dimming lights, relaxing, and trying to fall asleep.

Not consuming large amounts of alcohol, caffeine, tobacco, and other things can also help get rid of insomnia-developing risks. Additionally, embracing a healthier lifestyle with reduction strategies and proper exercise will reduce the risk.

Although the above-mentioned strategies can help you reduce the risk of developing insomnia, these are not guaranteed to work. You might develop insomnia despite doing your best to reduce your risk, and that's why understanding how to treat insomnia is important.

How to Treat Insomnia?

After reading about how insomnia has hereditary links, you might be wondering how this disease is treated.

Avoid Sleep-Disturbing Activities

Addiction to caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol is one of the most prominent sleep-disturbing activities that hamper your ability to fall asleep.  Limiting consumption of these substances in the evening can help you cope better with insomnia. According to studies, caffeine doses can disrupt sleep quality even when used six hours before sleep.

According to Qing-Qi Liu and Zong-Kui Zhou (2017), minimizing the use of electronic devices is another measure to take. You must switch off all the electronic devices in your room at least an hour before bed to help you fall asleep. Consider turning on your smartphone’s blue light blocking feature in the evening hours.

Plan Out a Calming Bed Routine and Implement It.

You are more likely to experience insomnia when you are overactive because of hyper-aroused emotions. By implementing a calming bed routine, you can relax your body and prepare your brain to fall asleep. You can incorporate activities like coloring, journaling, reading, and more into your bedtime routine.

Work on Your Bedroom Environment

Have you heard about dim mood lights? These can help with the process of falling asleep. You can also trigger your sleeping mode by dimming lights or turning them off. Avoid doing anything that might be stressful, like looking at your laptop, seeing the workload or pending assignments, stressing out, and triggering insomnia.

Proper Exercise

Proper exercise can help tire yourself out to help you go to bed. This will help you deal with insomnia, according to Hartescu, Iuliana, Kevin Morgan, and Clare D. Stevinson (2015). Morning sunlight positively impacts your circadian rhythm, so morning exercise will improve your sleep schedule.

Wrapping It Up!

That was the answer to the frequently asked question, Is Insomnia hereditary? Although Insomnia is influenced by genetics, several factors affect and can trigger gene expression. This means that genes alone can’t cause this disease.

However, there are multiple strategies to help you get rid of this disease or avoid it.  One of these strategies involves using Miracle Night.

Sleep Better with Miracle Night App!

Introducing Miracle Night - the revolutionary app that helps you fall asleep faster and enjoy a deep and more restful sleep. With its unique blend of science-backed techniques, technology, and soothing sounds, Miracle Night is designed to help you achieve the ultimate sleep experience that you may be missing from your everyday routine.

It can help you fall asleep up to 18% faster, so you can spend more time in dreamland and wake up feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. However, that’s not all - (app) users have reported that they have been enjoying up to 56% deeper sleep, achieving that more revitalizing and fortifying sleep construction.

So, if you’re tired of all the tossing and turning all night long, and want that desired deeper, restful sleep every night, try the Miracle Night app today. Download the app now and take the first step toward a better night’s sleep.