Are you at risk for insomnia?
Certain groups of individuals are at significantly higher risk of developing insomnia compared to others. Women are twice as likely to experience insomnia as men, and older adults above the age of 40 are more likely to experience insomnia.
People that experience high levels of stress due to traumatic life events, conditions that cause physical pain or medical conditions such as depression are more prone to developing chronic insomnia than people without any of these symptoms.
The Sleep/Wake Cycle
Your sleep/wake cycle (also known as your circadian rhythm) is a daily schedule that controls what time you should fall asleep and when to wake up. For most of us, the ideal cycle includes seven to nine hours of sleep (generally at night), followed by 15 to 17 hours of consciousness.
If you have a very unbalanced or disjointed sleep wake cycle, you are at risk of suffering from insomnia because disjointed sleep wake cycles tend to diminish the signals from the circadian clock that regulates our state of rest and alertness.
Due to a conflict between their body’s circadian clock and work schedule, people with jobs that involve regular time zone alterations or shift work are known to be at a significantly high risk. This is due to the fact that they may have to be at work when their body expects to be asleep. This is known as shift work disorder.
Note that not everyone who does shift work is at risk. However, if you continue to find it difficult to remain awake after several weeks of starting your new shift or feel tired even after sleeping 7-8 hours, you may have shift disorder.
Other groups of people at risk of developing insomnia include:
According to a research study carried out by the National Center for Health Statistics in Atlanta in December 2017, gay men are significantly more likely to suffer from insomnia, require medication to overcome insomnia or wake feeling unrested compared to straight or bisexual males.
The research further found that lesbians are more at risk of struggling to fall or stay asleep, needing anti-insomnia drugs to help them sleep and feeling they need more sleep in the morning.
“Night owls” who do not have a regular wake time.
Night owls are people who tend to go to bed extremely late, and have trouble conforming to the normal 8-5 routine. This lifestyle is more prevalent in men than women. The later it gets at night, the faster the mind is slowing down and becoming less capable of getting another night of full rest. This is the reason why people will find it more difficult to get through their job or any kind of work later on in the night.
According to various studies, night owls experience significantly more insomnia symptoms such as difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, waking up too early and fatigue during the day than morning people, even when they get the same amount of sleep. Studies have also shown that night owls tend to have a harder time adapting healthy sleeping habits than morning people.
In a Harvard Medical School Nurses study which involved 78,000 nurses, it was discovered that nurses who worked the night-shift for 30 years or more had a 36% increase risk of breast cancer than their day-shift colleagues.
People who are unable to relax after a stressful day at school or at work.
Stress is something that many of us experience at school and at work, and it is one of the major causes of insomnia. Today, stress is chronic, and modern sources of stress include things like academic pressure, difficult assignments, meeting productivity targets and looming deadlines are all things that cause a significant amount of stress. If you do not unwind from the day’s stresses, then you should not underestimate the impact that this can have on your ability to have a good night’s rest.
This is because the mind becomes stressed enough to the point where the neutrons travel around the mind faster and cause more thoughts to pass through the mind at night. In this situation, the person goes through a period where they are in a constant state of information processing.
Consequently, the mind will be unable to relax completely later on in the night. In this situation, because of its inability to switch off, the mind will be just as active during the day as it is at night. In a study about the brainwaves of a person suffering from chronic insomnia, scientists were able to discover that the neurons inside of the person’s mind are more active at night.
This is why researchers have maintained that insomnia should not be viewed directly as a night-time disorder. Rather, it is more of a twenty-four-hour
brain condition that causes the mind to remain constantly active.
People with other sleep disorders.
Restless legs syndrome is a neurological sleep disorder that causes a strong urge to move one’s legs. Symptoms are generally worse in the evening and at night, and make it difficult to get comfortable enough to fall asleep. It is about twice more common in women versus men and tends to increase with aging.
Family history of insomnia.
New research suggests that some people may be genetically predisposed to developing insomnia. Although there are currently no tests that can show whether you’re at risk of insomnia, studies have shown that genetics tends to play a role in insomnia.