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How Common Are Insomnia Disorders?

insomnia disorders

Insomnia sleep disorders torment millions of people each year. Although insomnia occurs at night, most of its symptoms can be felt during the day, such as difficulty concentrating or chronic headaches. Many people don’t even realize they have a sleep disorder, which contributes to the overall number of cases left untreated.

There are several different types of sleeping disorders, but research shows that insomnia is the most common. It has multiple definitions and subcategories. For example, insomnia can be primary or secondary. It can also be acute or chronic. Here is a look at some common insomnia trends among the general population and what you can do to reduce your risk.

How Does Insomnia Occur?

Insomnia arises out of a state of hyperarousal within the nervous system, which increases your alertness and makes it hard to sleep. Because of this, people with insomnia have a greater body metabolic rate than people who sleep regularly. They take longer to fall asleep at night and during naps even when they feel fatigued. Imaging tests determined that insomniacs have increased glucose metabolism both during wakeful and sleep states. They show the same hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis dysfunction as people with major depression when hooked up to brain wave tests.

Prevalence of Insomnia Sleeping Disorders

Everyone has insomnia-like symptoms every once and while, but this does not mean they have a sleeping disorder. The prevalence of insomnia depends on how the disorder is defined. Some experts view insomnia as a symptom and not necessarily a stand-alone condition. But for the sleep-deprived population, insomnia is very real no matter how it is classified and they would go to considerable lengths just to get some shut eye.

Insomnia has many definitions. Primary insomnia refers to a sleep disorder in its own right that is not caused by any other factors. Secondary insomnia is the most common type. It is often a symptom of an underlying medical condition, including another sleep disorder, heart problems, or a mood disorder. According to research, there are six types of primary insomnia:

  • Adjustment insomnia
  • Psychophysiological insomnia
  • Paradoxical insomnia
  • Idiopathic insomnia
  • Inadequate sleep hygiene
  • Behavioral insomnia of childhood

Secondary insomnias may be due to the following conditions (2):

  • Drug or substance abuse (alcohol, drugs, caffeine or nicotine)
  • Medical disorders (neurological disorders, depression, anxiety, diabetes, other sleep disorders, etc.)
  • Poor sleep hygiene
  • Certain medications

Data shows that the prevalence of insomnia ranges from 10 to 40 percent depending on the causing factor. One study from South Korea determined that when insomnia was defined as sleep loss that lasts at least three nights per week, approximately 17 percent of the test subjects met the qualifications. When the qualifying symptom was maintaining sleep, roughly 11.5 percent of the subjects were affected. When using stricter guidelines, only five percent of the subjects qualified for an insomnia diagnosis.

Other data have matched the findings of this study. According to a statement by the National Institutes of Health in 2005, only 10 percent of the population experiences daytime impairment or distress due to insomnia symptoms. Given these speculations, the prevalence can be estimated as 5 to 10 percent of the population have an insomnia sleep disorder while 30 percent have insomnia symptoms.

The three most predominant risk factors for developing insomnia include being female, having depression, and increased age. Here are some other risk factors that increase the likelihood of developing an insomnia disorder:

  • Snoring
  • Mood disorders or anxiety
  • Not exercising enough
  • Menstruation, PMS, pregnancy or menopause
  • High levels of stress
  • Having a history of sleep problems

Several environmental factors may contribute to insomnia. One study found that work, family, school and health events increased insomnia in participants. Another study determined that employees that were unhappy with their jobs or co-workers were more likely to experience insomnia.

Insomnia is strongly tied to mood disorders, especially depression and anxiety. Research shows that 40 percent of people with insomnia also have another primary health conditions. A 2003 review found that sleep loss was often the first symptom among people with anxiety, depression, substance abuse, and suicidal tendencies. Specifically, people with insomnia have a substantial risk of developing depression within one to three years.

One study showed that 69 percent of people with insomnia later developed depression while 73 percent of insomniacs developed an anxiety disorder. During a large scale study in participants who ranged in age from 15 to 100, approximately 40 percent of patients had insomnia symptoms before a mood disorder while 22 percent developed a mood disorder at the same time. The same study determined that in 38 percent of patients with insomnia had anxiety at the same time while 34 percent developed anxiety later.

Further data suggested that people with insomnia within the past year who did not have any pre-existing psychiatric disorders had an increased risk of developing a panic disorder, major depression or alcohol abuse the following year. Young people with insomnia were found to have a greater risk of committing suicide than adolescents who did not have a sleeping disorder. These findings determine that insomnia can exist as a stand alone condition, but it usually coincides with a mood disorder shortly after onset.

Insomnia has been linked to other health disorders and vice versa. One study found that insomniacs were more likely to have high blood pressure, chronic pain, heart disease, gastrointestinal problems, urinary conditions, neurologic disorders and difficulty breathing (1). Similarly, people with chronic pain, high blood pressure, and breathing, digestive or urinary disorders also had more insomnia. Many other conditions that range from hip problems to heart failure have been linked to insomnia.

Sleep problems can make any health condition worse. It also increases the likelihood of developing other disorders. In many cases, insomnia is a symptom of another disease. People with diabetes, congestive heart failure, and Cheyne-Stokes respiration gastroesophageal reflux disease reported having increased hyperarousal, which prevents them from sleeping. Individuals with heart problems had a risk ratio in difficulty sleeping of 1.5 to 3.9. Men with sleeping disorders were three times more likely to die from coronary heart disease, according to a 2002 study.

Lack of sleep makes you more susceptible to pain. One study found that more than 40 percent of people with insomnia also had at least one chronic pain condition. Common examples of chronic pain include back pain, rheumatoid arthritis, and fibromyalgia. Likewise, chronic pain is linked to shorter overall sleep time. It makes it harder for you to fall asleep after being woken up in the night. A 2007 study determined that 53 percent of people with chronic pain were more likely to have insomnia compared to three percent of test subjects who do not have chronic pain.

Insomnia and Healthcare Costs

Insomnia takes a toll on many areas of your life, including your job and personal life. One study found that people with primary insomnia spent double the amount of time on restricted activity due to their condition. Another study indicated that 22 percent of insomniacs rated their overall quality of life as being poor compared to only 3 percent of people without sleeping problems. In fact, having insomnia was found to be just as detrimental to your quality of life as congestive heart failure and depression.

The cost of insomnia treatments is felt by healthcare companies and the workforce alike. Data showed that insomniacs cost healthcare companies an estimated $35 to $107 billion a year due to being absent from work, alcohol consumption, and getting into accidents. Healthcare is defined as an increased rate of hospitalization or office visits. Research shows that insomniacs are more likely to utilize healthcare than people without sleep problems. Regardless of age, people with insomnia had greater direct costs of outpatient, inpatient, and emergency room occurrences, as well as pharmacy visits. In 1995, an estimated $13.9 billion was spent directly on insomnia in the United States alone. France spent $2.1 billion the same year.

Insomniacs were found to be twice as likely to miss work when compared to people who sleep well. The rate of absenteeism is especially high among blue-collar workers as well as in men. A 2008 study found that the extra cost of absenteeism caused employers to experience decreased productivity and salary replacement. In other words, insomniacs who missed work due to their health complications cost their company’s extra money when compared to good sleepers, making them a less attractive option as an employee.

Insomnia and Healthcare Costs

Insomnia takes a toll on many areas of your life, including your job and personal life. One study found that people with primary insomnia spent double the amount of time on restricted activity due to their condition. Another study indicated that 22 percent of insomniacs rated their overall quality of life as being poor compared to only 3 percent of people without sleeping problems. In fact, having insomnia was found to be just as detrimental to your quality of life as congestive heart failure and depression.

The cost of insomnia treatments is felt by healthcare companies and the workforce alike. Data showed that insomniacs cost healthcare companies an estimated $35 to $107 billion a year due to being absent from work, alcohol consumption, and getting into accidents. Healthcare is defined as an increased rate of hospitalization or office visits. Research shows that insomniacs are more likely to utilize healthcare than people without sleep problems. Regardless of age, people with insomnia had greater direct costs of outpatient, inpatient, and emergency room occurrences, as well as pharmacy visits. In 1995, an estimated $13.9 billion was spent directly on insomnia in the United States alone. France spent $2.1 billion the same year.

Insomniacs were found to be twice as likely to miss work when compared to people who sleep well. The rate of absenteeism is especially high among blue-collar workers as well as in men. A 2008 study found that the extra cost of absenteeism caused employers to experience decreased productivity and salary replacement. In other words, insomniacs who missed work due to their health complications cost their company’s extra money when compared to good sleepers, making them a less attractive option as an employee.

Insomnia Treatment Options

Many treatment options for insomnia exist. They range from cognitive behavioral therapy to improving your sleep hygiene. You can even use reverse psychology to try to force yourself awake. Visual therapy and meditation have been shown to redirect anxious thoughts to calming ones, which can help you fall asleep.

A large number of health experts recommend staying away from synthetic drugs as these may increase your risk of unwanted symptoms. Many people find success with natural remedies, such as herbal supplements, essential oils, or setting a bedtime routine.

Here are some helpful tips for treating insomnia naturally:

  1. Cut out refined sugars and carbohydrates from your diet. Replace these foods with fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, wild caught fish, and antibiotic-free meats. Many people with sleep problems have low levels of magnesium, calcium or potassium. Eating highly inflammatory processed foods prevents your small intestine from absorbing sleep-inducing nutrients into your bloodstream. Choose water or herbal tea over soda and juice. Drink eight ounces of water to for every eight-ounce cup of coffee you have.
  2. Exercise regularly to reduce stress and anxiety. Get outdoors if possible as studies have indicated that nature can help improve mood. Spend 30 minutes a day performing an aerobic activity that makes you sweat and follow it up with a 30-minute resistance training routine. Do this first thing in the morning if possible as working out too close to bedtime can keep you awake.
  3. Improve your bedroom’s atmosphere to make it more sleep-friendly. Set the thermostat between 65 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Invest in a comfortable mattress, sheets or comforter. Make sure your room is dark by blocking out any light and keeping all electronics out.

Overall, the prevalence of insomnia is about 10 percent. It occurs due to a state of hyperarousal that causes you to feel alert while trying to rest. Insomnia is related to an increased risk of developing other conditions, including mood disorders and heart problems. It also has a grave impact on your work performance and makes you less attractive as an employee due to absenteeism.

If you think you have a sleep disorder, your doctor may perform a series of tests to determine your mental and physical health. Treatment options are based on the cause of your diagnosis. Don’t ignore the symptoms of insomnia as treatment options are available to help enhance the quality of your life.

References

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2504337/