Chronic Insomnia Elevates Risk of Death

By Dr. Eric Siegal and Megan Rall

Getting enough sleep is important for overall health, weight control, and a sense of well being. Read on to learn how to improve the quality of your sleep.

Are you tired of tossing and turning at night?  Do you wake up in the morning wishing you could get another three hours of “good” sleep?  You are not alone!  Frustrations with poor sleep are all too common.  But, it gets worse.  Recent research says that chronic insomnia sufferers have an increased risk of death – it’s an increase for all types of insomnia and the risk is highest for insomniacs with chronic early-awakening insomnia. [1. SLEEP 2010, the 24th annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC, June 7, 2010, San Antonio, Texas] [2. Science Daily, June 7, 2010]

Insomnia is a sleep disorder that is associated with difficulty falling and staying asleep.  Affecting at least one third of adults in the United States, insomnia is a highly prevalent and costly health problem that can lead to significant impairment of social and occupational functioning. [3. Walsh JK. Clinical and socioeconomic correlates of insomnia. J Clin Psychiatry. 2004;65(suppl 18):13-19.]

Sleep needs vary from about 4 hours per night to about 9 hours per night among healthy individuals, so insomnia cannot be diagnosed by the amount of sleep a person receives. Insomnia is distinguished from healthy short sleep by daytime consequences such as feelings of restlessness, irritability, impaired social and occupational functioning.[4. ICD-9-CM. Manual of the international classification of diseases, 9th rev. Clinical modification. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1980.]   If you sleep poorly at night but feel well during the day, you are not an insomniac but a person with a low need to sleep. Most insomniacs complain bitterly about their impairment of daytime functioning, ability to concentrate, memory, and mood.[5. Bonnet MH, Arand DL: Caffeine use as a model of acute and chronic insomnia. Sleep 15(6):526-536, 1992.]

People with insomnia are unable to sleep refreshingly for at least one hour without any known or physical condition.  Sleep deprivation is increasingly common, and it may be attributed to poor lifestyle choices. Chief among these are excesses of caffeine and alcohol and inadequate physical activity. [6. Morgan K (2003). Daytime activity and risk factors for late-life insomnia. Journal of Sleep Research, 12(3): 231-238.]   Depression also plays a primary role in causing insomnia.

The medical community is dealing with insomnia by prescribing anti-depressants (Paxil, Zoloft, and Prozac), anti-anxiety medications (Valium, Xanax, Ativan) sleeping pills, and steroids.  These medications can cause constipation, diarrhea, headache, difficulty breathing, heartburn, suicidal behaviors, and many other side effects.

Easy Steps to Lead you to a Good Night’s Sleep:

1.    Avoid caffeine and alcohol.

2.    Get out and move!  Physical activity helps with insomnia and depression.   Particularly if you do this early in the morning.  Exercising in the afternoon or evenings can keep you awake!

3.    Avoid snacking before bed, especially grains or sugars.  These will delay sleep because they raise your blood sugar.  Our Maximized Living Nutrition Plans book is a great resource for the right foods to eat that are low Glycemic index foods that will help, not hurt sleep.

4.    Stop wishing for a good night’s sleep and start getting one with these Maximized Living tools – your life depends on it!

SLEEPING IS REGULATED BY THE NERVOUS SYSTEM: Get your spine examined for nerve system interference by your local Maximized Living doctor.  By completing comprehensive spine and nervous system scans we are able to detect areas of interference.  This interference blocks the brain’s ability to regulate and control normal hormones and chemical levels that control sleep and depression.  By maximizing nerve supply to the body it allows the body to function at its highest potential.