Insomnia may be inherited from your parents

Around a third (31%) of Brits suffer from insomnia, statistics show. [Photo: Getty]

Many of us lie awake at night, desperately trying to catch some shut eye.

While we may blame a never-ending to-do list, research suggests those who struggle to nod off could have inherited the trait from their parents.

After looking at the sleeping habits of thousands of adults, scientists from Uppsala University in Sweden found people are more likely to wake in the night, snore or feel sleepy during the day if their parents do too.

READ MORE: More than a quarter of children not getting enough sleep

“It is common for patients with sleep problems to describe family members having similar problems,” lead author Professor Eva Lindberg said.

“The findings indicate if your parents have sleep disturbances, you are indeed at increased risk.

“Where these problems run in the family, people might want to avoid situations likely to change their regular night-time habits, as we know that not getting enough sleep is bad for health,” the Daily Mail reported.

Around a third (31%) of Brits suffer from insomnia, according to a sleep survey by insurer Aviva.

In the US, 35.2% of adults averaged less than seven hours sleep a night in 2014, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows.

The CDC claims adults require at least seven hours shut eye a night for “the best health and wellbeing”.

The NHS stresses “most of us need around eight hours of good-quality sleep a night to function properly”, adding “some need more and some less”.

READ MORE: Scientists reveal why we feel so tired in the morning

The odd night tossing and turning can leave you irritable and fatigued the next day, but will not harm your health.

Overtime, however, chronic insomnia is associated with everything from obesity and diabetes to heart disease and even premature death.

Jet lag, stress, alcohol and an uncomfortable bed are all linked to insomnia, with research increasingly also pointing the finger at genetics.

To learn more, the scientists asked nearly 6,000 middle-aged people and their adult children how they slept during a typical week.

Results, published in the journal Sleep Medicine, suggest the participants were over a third (39%) more likely to have insomnia if their parents also slept poorly.

Just over 5% of the adult children in the study got by on less than six hours shut eye a night.

This was 2.5 times more likely if their parents also managed with similar amounts of sleep.

Those whose parents found it difficult to nod off were 52% more likely to have the same affliction.

They were also 45% more likely to snore “loudly” in a “disturbing” way if their parents did the same.

READ MORE: Bad sleep habits linked to social media use, study finds

Waking in the night was most likely to be “passed down” to daughters, the results show.

While sleeping for a short time was found to be a trait “inherited” from the participants’ fathers.

This remained true after the scientists adjusted for BMI, exercise levels, age and smoking - all of which can influence sleep.

The study did not analyse the participants’ DNA for “sleep genes” that may get passed down.

Insomnia usually gets better if you change your sleep habits, according to the NHS.

It recommends going to bed and waking at the same time every day, including on weekends.

Unwinding with a book, avoiding coffee and exercising regularly can also help.

Find more sleep tips on the NHS’ website.