Sleeping Problems May be Insomnia

Are you up all night tossing and turning? If so, it may be more serious than restlessness. A new study shows half of people who complain of sleeping problems may have insomnia.

“We usually picture insomnia and sleep-disordered breathing as distinct processes, but evidence indicates that, in many cases, both disorders are really two sides of the same coin,” says lead author Barry Krakow, M.D., from the Sleep Research Institute in Albuquerque, N.M. In a survey of 2,000 people, 231 experienced sleep-disordered breathing, such as snoring or sleep apnea. Among these people, more than 51 percent reported one or more symptoms of insomnia at least two nights every week. Twenty-nine percent said they experience insomnia every night or almost every night.

The survey also found nearly 20 percent of insomnia patients did not complain of snoring or apnea, yet they were still diagnosed with sleep-disordered breathing. People with both sleep-disordered breathing and insomnia reported significantly worse sleep. They take more than one hour to fall asleep, sleep less than six hours, and lie awake in bed for nearly an hour and a half each night. These people also tend to have more psychiatric disorders, emotional problems, and physical and mental symptoms that interrupt or prevent sleep.

Since the line is blurred between sleep-disordered breathing and insomnia, Dr. Krakow believes, “A shift in our thinking on how to evaluate and treat these patients,” is necessary. He says, “This may be another example of the medical adage, ‘You don’t find what you don’t look for.'”

SOURCE: Chest, 2001;120:1923-1929

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