“Men who find themselves unable to sleep during the small hours of the night may end up dying younger,” reported the Daily Mail.
This study looked at people’s insomnia and their risk of dying over a 14-year period. At the start of the study, people filled out a questionnaire on their history of insomnia and were observed for one night in a sleep laboratory. Men who reported a history of insomnia and slept for less than six hours in the lab were four times more likely to die in the follow-up period than those without insomnia who slept for six hours or more in the lab.
These findings require careful interpretation and do not prove that insomnia increases the risk of early death. Sleep duration was only objectively measured once, so it may not represent a typical sleep pattern or confirm that a person had insomnia. In addition, the study’s middle-aged participants were originally enrolled to investigate sleep disordered breathing, so they were not randomly selected and are unlikely to represent the general population.
In short, this research does not provide strong evidence that insomnia is linked to an early death, and it sheds no light on possible reasons behind a link. Further research is needed.
Eight per cent of women and 4 per cent of men were diagnosed by the scientists as having chronic insomnia and sleeping on average less than six hours a night. But over the following 14 years, men with chronic insomnia were four times more likely to die than those with more healthy sleep patterns.
The findings took into account diseases that could cause the men to sleep badly – such as diabetes and high blood pressure – and risk factors such as smoking, alcohol use, depression, obesity and sleeping disorders.
However, women with insomnia were just as likely to die in the following decade as those without, the researchers found.
Men were at an even greater risk of premature death if they suffered from chronic insomnia and diabetes or high blood pressure.
”We believe that cumulatively these findings will increase the awareness among physicians and scientists that insomnia should be diagnosed early and treated appropriately,” Dr Vgontzas said.
Experts say adults need seven to eight hours of sleep each night. The researchers are unsure why insomnia is more dangerous for men.
Meanwhile, tired teenagers are more likely to reach for fatty junk foods more often than those who are well-rested, research shows.
And according to the findings, sleep-deprived girls are the most likely to give in to temptation. Getting less than eight hours’ sleep a night increased the intake of fatty foods by about 2 per cent.
Insomnia is a symptom that can accompany several sleep, medical and psychiatric disorders, characterized by persistent difficulty falling asleep and/or difficulty staying asleep. Insomnia is typically followed by functional impairment while awake.
Both organic and non-organic insomnia without other cause constitute a sleep disorder, primary insomnia. One definition of insomnia is “difficulties initiating and/or maintaining sleep, or nonrestorative sleep, associated with impairments of daytime functioning or marked distress for more than 1 month.”
According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services in the year 2007, approximately 64 million Americans regularly suffer from insomnia each year. Insomnia is 41% more common in women than in men.
Types of insomnia
Although there are several different degrees of insomnia, three types of insomnia have been clearly identified: transient, acute, and chronic.
1. Transient insomnia lasts for less than a week. It can be caused by another disorder, by changes in the sleep environment, by the timing of sleep, severe depression, or by stress. Its consequences – sleepiness and impaired psychomotor performance – are similar to those of sleep deprivation.
2. Acute insomnia is the inability to consistently sleep well for a period of less than a month.
3. Chronic insomnia lasts for longer than a month. It can be caused by another disorder, or it can be a primary disorder. Its effects can vary according to its causes. They might include being unable to sleep, muscular fatigue, hallucinations, and/or mental fatigue; but people with chronic insomnia often show increased alertness. Some people that live with this disorder see things as if they are happening in slow motion, wherein moving objects seem to blend together. Can cause double vision.
Insomnia can be caused by:
* Psychoactive drugs or stimulants, including certain medications, herbs, caffeine, nicotine, cocaine, amphetamines, methylphenidate, MDMA and modafinil
* Fluoroquinolone antibiotic drugs, see Fluoroquinolone toxicity, associated with more severe and chronic types of insomnia
* Restless Legs Syndrome can cause insomnia due to the discomforting sensations felt and need to move the legs or other body parts to relieve these sensations. It is difficult if not impossible to fall asleep while moving.
* Pain Any injury or condition that causes pain. Pain can preclude an individual from finding a comfortable position in which to fall asleep, and in addition can cause awakening if, during sleep, the person rolls over and puts pressure on the injured or painful area of the body.
* Hormone shifts such as those that precede menstruation and those during menopause
* Life problems like fear, stress, anxiety, emotional or mental tension, work problems, financial stress.
* Mental disorders such as bipolar disorder, clinical depression, generalized anxiety disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, or obsessive compulsive disorder.
* Disturbances of the circadian rhythm, such as shift work and jet lag, can cause an inability to sleep at some times of the day and excessive sleepiness at other times of the day. Jet lag is seen in people who travel through multiple time zones, as the time relative to the rising and setting of the sun no longer coincides with the body’s internal concept of it. The insomnia experienced by shift workers is also a circadian rhythm sleep disorder.
* Certain neurological disorders, brain lesions, or a history of traumatic brain injury
* Medical conditions such as hyperthyroidism and rheumatoid arthritis
* Abuse of over-the counter or prescription sleep aids can produce rebound insomnia
* Poor sleep hygiene, e.g., noise
* Parasomnia, which includes a number of disruptive sleep events including nightmares, sleepwalking, night terrors, violent behavior while sleeping, and REM behavior disorder, in which a person moves his/her physical body in response to events within his/her dreams
* A rare genetic condition can cause a prion-based, permanent and eventually fatal form of insomnia called fatal familial insomnia.
* Physical exercise. Exercise-induced insomnia is common in athletes, causing prolonged sleep onset latency.
Sleep studies using polysomnography have suggested that people who have insomnia with sleep disruption have elevated nighttime levels of circulating cortisol and adrenocorticotropic hormone They also have an elevated metabolic rate, which does not occur in people who do not have insomnia but whose sleep is intentionally disrupted during a sleep study. Studies of brain metabolism using positron emission tomography (PET) scans indicate that people with insomnia have higher metabolic rates by night and by day. The question remains whether these changes are the causes or consequences of long-term insomnia.
Insomnia can be common after the loss of a loved one, even years or decades after the death, if they have not gone through the grieving process. Overall, symptoms and the degree of their severity affect each individual differently depending on their mental health, physical condition, and attitude or personality.
A common misperception is that the amount of sleep required decreases as a person ages. The ability to sleep for long periods, rather than the need for sleep, appears to be lost as people get older. Some elderly insomniacs toss and turn in bed and occasionally fall off the bed at night, diminishing the amount of sleep they receive.