Everyone has an occasional night of bad sleep. For most people, insomnia lasts only a few days and goes away without treatment. However, factors such as stress can cause a higher level of insomnia that may last for several weeks. This kind of insomnia may not go away on its own, and can lead to both short- and long-term health problems if left untreated. According to a study published in the July 1st issue of the journal SLEEP, chronic insomnia can increase one’s chances for developing anxiety disorders and depression.
The study, conducted by Dag Neckelmann, MD, PhD, of Haukeland University Hospital in Bergen, Norway, was based on data collected from 25,130 adults from two general health surveys. Dr. Neckelmann found significant relations between the longitudinal course of chronic insomnia and the development of anxiety disorders and depression. Compared to the group of participants without chronic insomnia in both surveys, the group with chronic insomnia had increased associations to having developed anxiety disorders and depression.
“Chronic insomnia is a state marker of both anxiety disorder and depression,” said Neckelmann. “From a clinical point of view, these results imply that individuals reporting chronic insomnia, in addition to receiving adequate treatment for their sleep disturbance, should be carefully examined for the presence of anxiety disorder as well as depression.”
Focusing on chronic insomnia as a symptom of both anxiety and depression may facilitate the early detection of a mental disorder, as well as the detection of comorbidity, said Nechelmann, who added that, though not demonstrated, alleviating chronic insomnia may reduce the risk of developing anxiety disorders.
Insomnia is a classification of sleep disorders in which a person has trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up too early. These disorders may also be defined by an overall poor quality of sleep.
Insomnia is the most commonly reported sleep disorder. About 30 percent of adults have symptoms of insomnia. Less than 10 percent of adults are likely to have chronic insomnia. Insomnia is more common among elderly people and women.
Those who think they might have insomnia, or another sleep disorder, are urged to discuss their problem with their primary care physician, who will issue a referral to a sleep specialist.