Insomnia Related to Medical Disorders

Alcoholism & Insomnia

Alcohol may induce sleep for up to four hours, but after that it can lead to frequent awakenings and sleep fragmentation. Insomnia is a common symptom of alcoholism. See more about alcohol abuse.

Degenerative Neurological Disorders & Insomnia

Insomnia is often associated with degenerative neurological disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease, Pick's disease, and hydrocephalus. People with dementia who require institutionalization typically have insomnia.

Parkinson's Disease & Insomnia

Insomnia is a common complication of Parkinson's disease and of the medications used to treat it. Other causes of insomnia in people with Parkinson's disease include periodic limb movements and sleep-related breathing disorders. Parkinson's patients also don't move much in bed and experience pain from agitated pressure-point arousal. Rapid eye movement disorder is thought to precede Parkinson's disease. See more about Parkinson's disease.

Fatal Familial Insomnia (FFI)

Fatal familial insomnia is an extremely rare, infectious prion disease. It involves proteinaceous cells, probably of the thalamus, that lack the ability to produce nucleic acid. It is a progressive disorder that begins with difficulty initiating sleep and leads to total lack of sleep within a few months. It can be fatal within 7 to 13 months after symptoms begin.

Headaches & Insomnia

Any type of headache that occurs during sleep may wake a person up. For example, hypnic headaches are characterized by generalized pulsating pain and may occur three times a night for 30 minutes for several consecutive nights. They are benign and usually affect people over the age of 60. They sometimes respond to lithium treatment. See more about headaches.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) & Insomnia

Many aspects of COPD can disturb one's sleep. Low blood oxygen levels, coughing to clear secretions from the lungs, bronchospasm (narrowing and obstruction of airways), and the side effects of the medications used to treat the condition can create a night of broken sleep. See more about COPD.

Asthma & Insomnia

Asthma-related bronchospasm and subsequent airway obstruction is often worse during the night. This may lead to shortness of breath that causes a person to wake up. As with COPD, many asthma medications can cause insomnia, including theophylline, beta agonists (used as inhalants), and corticosteroids. See more about asthma.

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) and Heartburn & Insomnia

Nocturnal acid reflux and its characteristic chronic burning sensation in the lower esophagus can arouse one from sleep. If the symptoms are pronounced before going to sleep, they may cause sleep-onset difficulties. Heartburn often wakes people up and makes it difficult to go back to sleep. Avoiding fatty foods before sleep may help reduce heartburn and sleep disturbance. See more about GERD.

Fibromyalgia & Insomnia

People with fibromyalgia often complain of light sleep and non-restorative sleep. Fibromyalgia causes chronic pain in muscles and joint tissue, which can significantly disrupt or prevent sleep. See more about fibromyalgia.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 30 Nov 2000

Last Modified: 22 Sep 2015