Identify and Treat Insomnia Early to Reduce Risk of Other Illnesses

Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder, but despite advances in diagnosis and management, it often goes unrecognized and untreated. Left untreated, insomnia increases the risk of developing other illnesses including depression, diabetes, hypertension, and possibly even death in older adults. Therefore, much more needs to be done to identify and treat insomnia early, and to ensure that patients are treated according to clinical guidelines rather than with off-label drugs that have little evidence for their effectiveness, concludes a review of the evidence published Online First in The Lancet.

"In view of the high prevalence and substantial morbidities of insomnia, patients should routinely be asked about sleep problems by health-care providers," say Charles Morin from the Université Laval, Québec City, Canada and Ruth Benca from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA, authors of the Seminar.

Studies Show Insomnia is a Major Health Problem

Madison, Wisconsin - Insomnia is a serious medical condition that should be treated with evidence-based medicine because it is linked to depression, diabetes, hypertension, drug abuse and even death, according to a review of recent research co-authored by a leading University of Wisconsin-Madison sleep researcher.

"This review underscores the fact that insomnia needs to be taken seriously, and that health care providers should routinely ask their patients how they are sleeping," says Dr. Ruth Benca, director of the Wisconsin Sleep laboratory and clinic.

Sleepless on the Night Shift? Not Just a Health Issue

An estimated 15 million Americans routinely work night shifts or rotate in and out of overnight shift work, and, as anyone who's ever been stuck working when others are sleeping can tell you, the odd hours can take a toll.

A study published this month in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine suggests that it's insomnia, rather than sleepiness, that has the largest impact on night shift worker productivity.

The study looked at several dozen permanent night workers, the majority of whom were diagnosed with "shift work disorder" - a condition whose symptoms include excessive sleepiness at times when the worker is supposed to be awake, alert and productive, as well as a lack of concentration and energy, irritability and chronic insomnia.

Functional and Economic Impact of Sleep Loss and Sleep-Related Disorders

The public health consequences of sleep loss, night work, and sleep disorders are far from benign. Some of the most devastating human and environmental health disasters have been partially attributed to sleep loss and night shift work-related performance failures, including the tragedy at the Bhopal, India, chemical plant; the nuclear reactor meltdowns at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl; as well as the grounding of the Star Princess cruise ship and the Exxon Valdez oil tanker (NCSDS, 1994; NTSB, 1997; Moss and Sills, 1981; United States Senate Committee on Energy and National Resources, 1986; USNRC, 1987; Dinges et al., 1989). Each of these incidents not only cost millions of dollars to clean up, but also had a significant impact on the environment and the health of local communities.

Get Some Sleep, and Wake Up the G.D.P.

January is always a good month for behavioral economics: Few things illustrate self-control as vividly as New Year’s resolutions. February is even better, though, because it lets us study why so many of those resolutions are broken.

But a more important question may involve a resolution that so many of us fail to make. It involves a commodity that nearly everybody needs more of, and our failure to address it arguably has as much impact on our well-being as inadequate exercise and unhealthy eating.

The problem is very simple: Many of us need more sleep.

Here’s an Insomnia Treatment More Powerful than Drugs or ‘Sleep Hygiene’

The best insomnia treatment is a well-kept secret. It’s not that anyone is purposely hiding it. It’s just that it has yet to find its way from the research world to the clinic and to the people who need it. Unlike sleeping pills that have huge sales potential and marketing budgets, effective non-drug interventions are not rapidly disseminated. So cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia, or “CBT-I,” is not yet a household word.

Decades of research, including randomized controlled trials and meta-analyses, have shown that CBT-I is effective at reversing insomnia. In fact, it is the first-line treatment in Canadian, American and British medical guidelines. It is recommended for chronic insomnia, ahead of sleeping pills. However, as yet, access to this excellent treatment is very limited.

The Evidence Points to a Better Way to Fight Insomnia

One weekend afternoon a couple of years ago, while turning a page of the book I was reading to my daughters, I fell asleep. That’s when I knew it was time to do something about my insomnia.

Data, not pills, was my path to relief.

Insomnia is common. About 30 percent of adults report some symptoms of it, though less than half that figure have all symptoms. Not all insomniacs are severely debilitated zombies. Consistent sleeplessness that causes some daytime problems is all it takes to be considered an insomniac. Most function quite well, and the vast majority go untreated.

The First Line of Insomnia Treatment That’ll Surprise You

Whenever most people have serious trouble sleeping, they automatically reach for a sleeping aid, whether that’s a prescription or over-the-counter medication or a natural remedy.

But these solutions, as psychologist and sleep specialist Stephanie Silberman, Ph.D, explained, are anything but.

In fact, the preferred solution — the one that research also supports — is a treatment that many people, even medical professionals, are unaware of.

Research has shown that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is highly effective for insomnia. (Effective results have been shown in a recent meta-analysis and article review.)

To Get Better Sleep, Maybe Try Staying Awake

So you can’t sleep. An estimated 30 percent of Americans suffer from chronic insomnia, and the sensible, standard advice given to them is to practice sleep hygiene and simply try going to bed earlier. If (or when) this fails, there are of course dozens of sleep medications available over the counter or via prescription.

And yet the best treatment for chronic insomnia, according to the scientific literature, is one that most people haven’t tried, no doubt at least in part because it sounds insane: The secret to getting better sleep may be to purposefully get less of it, at least for a time.

Sleep Deprivation Is Killing You and Your Career

The next time you tell yourself that you’ll sleep when you’re dead, realize that you’re making a decision that can make that day come much sooner. Pushing late into the night is a health and productivity killer.

According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at the Harvard Medical School, the short-term productivity gains from skipping sleep to work are quickly washed away by the detrimental effects of sleep deprivation on your mood, ability to focus, and access to higher-level brain functions for days to come. The negative effects of sleep deprivation are so great that people who are drunk outperform those lacking sleep.