Sleep is essential for the body to repair and restore itself. In fact, sleep is so important that humans spend approximately 30% of their lives sleeping. However, since the beginning of recorded time and undoubtedly before that, some people have struggled to sleep. Fortunately, over the last 50 years our understanding of how to improve and correct the body’s sleep systems has advanced tremendously. This research has led to new understanding of how people sleep and why about 30% of the US population struggles with sleep disorders such as insomnia.
Insomnia is defined as dissatisfaction with sleep quantity or quality associated with difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, even when there is adequate sleep opportunity (7-8 hours). This can cause significant social or functional distress and impairment. The most common sleep disorder in the US is Insufficient Sleep Syndrome, in which sleep deprivation occurs from an inadequate amount of sleep. Insufficient Sleep Syndrome is voluntary, but unintentional, unlike insomnia. 1 A recent poll of US adults suggests an average sleep time of just over 6 hours which is 2 hours less than we were sleeping 100 years ago, however, our sleep need has remained constant.
In order to achieve quality sleep, many insomniacs often self-prescribe antihistamines and alcohol. These treatments often have negative short and long-term outcomes. The first recommended treatment is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), but this involves a trained therapist as well as a significant time commitment. These aspects combined with the fact that it is not well reimbursed by insurance can make it prohibitive for many individuals. A more cost-efficient alternative can be self-directed computer-based programs. Traditional pharmaceutical sleep products (hypnotics) have focused on depressing the central nervous system directly, but these medications have limitations due to adverse effects such as hangover, amnesia, abuse liability and dependence.
To end on a positive note, new research is focusing on some different ways to treat insomnia. We are excited to be involved at two of our North Florida ENCORE Research Group offices. If you are interested in getting involved in any of our research studies, call your local office today!