Friday, August 21, 2009

Five Risk Factors for Insomnia

A study in the Aug. 1 issue of the journal Sleep examined potential risk factors for insomnia.

study from Quebec involved 464 adults who were good sleepers; they had an average age of 45 years. Participants completed a variety of surveys that evaluated their sleep, mental health and physical well-being. Then they were followed up after six months and again after 12 months.

Results show that more than seven percent of the good sleepers developed insomnia syndrome during the one-year follow-up period; they were troubled by a sleep problem at least three nights per week for a month or longer.

Another 31 percent of the good sleepers reported having insomnia symptoms. They also had trouble sleeping at least three nights per week; but their sleep problem caused less distress or lasted less than a month.

In general, self-reported mental health was worse in people who developed insomnia syndrome; they reported more symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Further analysis identified five variables that increased the risk of developing insomnia.

The strongest risk factor was having a previous episode of insomnia. People with a prior history of insomnia were five times more likely to develop a new case of insomnia syndrome.

Another important risk factor was having a family history of insomnia; this increased the risk of developing insomnia by three times.

A third risk factor was cognitive “arousability;” people were more likely to develop insomnia if they have strong emotions and easily become frustrated or excited.

The other two risk factors were general health and bodily pain; insomnia was more common in people with worse self-reported health and more pain.

The study shows that symptoms of insomnia are extremely common. Often these symptoms are a short-term response to a stressor; this is called
adjustment insomnia. It tends to last for a few days or a few weeks.

Insomnia also may be related to other health problems. It can result from
medical conditions that cause discomfort, pain or breathing problems; it can be caused by a mental health disorder such as depression or anxiety; it also can result from the use of a drug or substance such as a prescription medication.

For an ongoing struggle with insomnia, you should seek help at an AASM-accredited sleep center near you.

Image by Kari

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