June features the shortest nights of the year, but for those living with chronic insomnia, every night is long. That’s why the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine (SBSM) and American Alliance for Healthy Sleep (AAHS) are working to raise awareness of the disease with Insomnia Awareness Night on June 22, 2020.
More than an occasional restless night, chronic insomnia involves difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, or regularly waking up earlier than desired, despite allowing enough time in bed for sleep.
“Getting adequate sleep can be difficult, especially in times of increased anxiety or stress, like those we have all experienced recently,” said Jennifer Martin, PhD, a member of the AASM board of directors. “However, chronic insomnia disorder is more persistent, and when left untreated, can lead to a range of long-term health issues.”
Chronic insomnia disorder involves difficulty sleeping and daytime symptoms occurring at least three times per week for at least three months. Its lasting effects are more severe than acute or short-term insomnia, which in most cases resolves itself.
Symptoms of Chronic Insomnia
Symptoms associated with chronic insomnia include daytime fatigue or sleepiness; feeling dissatisfied with sleep; having trouble concentrating; feeling depressed, anxious or irritable; or having low motivation or low energy. It is more common in women than in men.
Impact of Chronic Insomnia
Chronic insomnia is associated with increased risk of a range of physical and mental health problems. Research suggests chronic insomnia can lead to increased risks of depression, anxiety, substance abuse and motor vehicle accidents. Research also shows that impaired sleep is a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, and a recent study found that people who have insomnia are 28% more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than those without.
Chronic insomnia also has a negative impact on work and school performance, impairing concentration and increasing the risk of errors and accidents. Research has estimated that insomnia is associated with nearly 253 million days of lost work each year in the U.S. and more than $100 billion in annual costs due to indirect costs such as poorer workplace performance, increased health care utilization and increased accident risk.
“The effects of ongoing insomnia can impact nearly every aspect of your life,” said David Bishop, chairman of the board of directors of AAHS. “Developing healthy sleep habits can help someone who has a mild or short-term case of insomnia, but if symptoms persist into the daytime and inhibit your quality of life, it’s time to get support from your doctor.”
Treating Chronic Insomnia
The most effective treatment for chronic insomnia is cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I), which combines behavioral strategies, such as setting a consistent sleep schedule and getting out of bed when you are struggling to sleep, with cognitive strategies, such as replacing fears about sleeplessness with more helpful expectations. CBT-I recommendations are customized to address each patient’s individual needs and symptoms. While six to eight sessions are typical, some patients improve more quickly.
“Cognitive behavioral therapy helps patients identify and change the actions and thoughts that are causing insomnia while also promoting healthy sleep habits,” said Donald Townsend, PhD, president of SBSM.
Insomnia Awareness Night Activities
Those who would like to connect for information and advice about chronic insomnia should join the conversation on Monday, June 22:
- Facebook Live: 9:30-10 p.m. ET
- Twitter Chat using #InsomniaNight: 10-11 p.m. ET
- Reddit Ask Me Anything: 11 p.m.–Midnight ET
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