"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

How dangerous is insomnia? How fear of what it's doing to your body can break your sleep.

I (Leon) have recently seen several patients who were concerned that their insomnia symptoms would increase their risk of dementia. He was in his 70s and was waking up two or 3 times an evening, which he took as insomnia. But they didn't deteriorate through the day in the identical way as insomnia.

Their temporary awakenings are normal and completely harmless to most individuals. Brief awakenings emerge from the periodic stages of sunshine sleep that naturally occur between 4 or five 90-minute cycles of deep sleep. If you might be unfamiliar with this “roller coaster” of a 90-minute cycle, you might think that such awakenings are an indication of illness. In fact, they're perfectly normal and folks experience more of them as they age, when sleep naturally becomes lighter and shorter – with no ailing effects.

So, I reassured them that that they had sleep routines and didn't have insomnia. It requires daytime disturbances – fatigue, cognitive problems, mild depression, irritability, anxiety or anxiety – along with nighttime symptoms.

I'm sure they were reassured, and so that they avoided the type of fear and anxiety that might have set off a cascade of events resulting in insomnia.

Is it really insomnia?

Reading concerning the health risks of insomnia can keep you up at night.

So where did my patients get the concept their sleep symptoms could lead on to dementia? Let's sort through this tsunami of dangerous information.

It often starts with many. Large surveys who discover a statistically significant association between measures of sleep problems and the following development of dementia.

First, most of those studies ask participants to report how long they typically sleep. Those who report lower than six hours an evening show a small but statistically significant increased risk of developing dementia.

These studies didn't report whether people had been diagnosed with medical insomnia by a health skilled. Instead, they rely entirely on the participants for a way long they slept, which Could be wrong.

The study would have included many individuals without insomnia who will not be giving themselves adequate sleep. Perhaps they were within the habit of socializing or playing computer games late into the night.

In other words, we have no idea what quantity of short sleepers are overestimating their sleep problems, or restricting their sleep and experiencing chronic sleep deprivation fairly than insomnia. have been.

What do the numbers really mean?

A second issue is the interpretation of the meaning of “statistically significant”. It just implies that the outcomes were unlikely resulting from pure likelihood. If the identical study shows a 20 percent increased risk of a physical health problem linked to insomnia, how concerned should we be? This singular finding doesn't necessarily mean that it's value considering in our every day lives.

Studies relating insomnia to health risks are also generally inconsistent. For example, although some studies have shown that insomnia is related to a rather increased risk of dementia, Large UK study No association was found between the quantity of sleep or sleep difficulties and the danger of dementia.

What is context?

A 3rd issue is educating the general public concerning the potential dangers of insomnia in a balanced way. Some within the mainstream media, with the assistance of a researcher's institution, will report studies that show a statistically significant increase in the danger of a dreaded disease like dementia.

But not all media reports ask how clinically meaningful the danger is, whether there are alternative explanations, or how the outcomes compare to those of other researchers. The public is due to this fact left with no context to enrage the alarmist, “increased threat” narrative. This narrative is then shared on social media, further reinforcing the dire consequences.

On the laptop, on the desk, the old man at home
Scary headlines concerning the health effects of insomnia don't all the time reflect the true danger.

Obesity, diabetes, hypertension

We have used dementia for example of how insomnia creates and exacerbates fears about potential threats to physical health. But we could use the possible increased risk of obesity, diabetes or hypertension. All are linked to less sleep, but researchers are debating whether these links are real, meaningful or related to insomnia.

When we checked out the impact of sleep problems on life expectancy, we found that No evidence Sleep symptoms alone can shorten your life. Only when daytime symptoms corresponding to fatigue, memory problems and anxiety are involved. Small risk increases to die before time. However, it's difficult to know whether this excess mortality might be explained by heart, kidney, liver or brain disease that causes daytime symptoms.

We should speak about mental health.

However, there is powerful evidence of a rise in mental health problems, particularly depression, with insomnia.

Common daytime disturbances of fatigue, anxiety, cognitive impairment, and irritability definitely reduce quality of life. Life becomes more of a challenge and fewer enjoyable. Over time, this will trigger hopelessness and depression in some people. This is reason enough to hunt help to enhance sleep and quality of life.

People affected by these problems should seek help from a health practitioner. The excellent news is that there's an efficient, long-term, non-drug treatment with no negative effects – cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia. or CBTi. Even higher, successful CBTi too decreases Symptoms of depression and other mental problems.

What isn't helpful is the unnecessary fear generated by reports of great physical health risks of insomnia. This fear is prone to increase fairly than reduce insomnia.