Professor Eus Van Someren says that our genetic make up and childhood experiences can impact on whether we experience insomnia as adults, reports Horizon magazine.

What are the main causes of insomnia?

‘I wish we knew! When I started to work on insomnia about 10 years ago, it was seen as something that was all in the head, at least here in the Netherlands. The problem is that it’s hard to measure insomnia – most people with the condition show the same kind of brainwaves that we think represent sleep. This has stalled research.

‘We had a breakthrough last year when we identified genes that put people at risk for insomnia for the first time. Continuation of this work would allow us to figure out in what cell types and brain areas they are highly expressed. That would really bring us closer to the underlying mechanisms for insomnia.’