Millions of Americans do not get the required amount of sleep, with 35-40% of adults getting less than the recommended 7-8 hours and 15% getting 6 hours or less 1,2. According to the National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep Health Index 3, nearly half (45%) of Americans report poor or insufficient sleep that compromises daily functioning. Insomnia - difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up earlier than desired – is the most common sleep complaint. About 30% of individuals will complain of symptoms of insomnia, with about 10% of adults meeting criteria for Insomnia Disorder, making it the most common sleep disorder. Women are particularly vulnerable, experiencing insomnia at 1.5-2 times that of men. Likewise, about 45% of older adults complain of insomnia symptoms. Despite its high prevalence, insomnia is often minimized, under-addressed, and left untreated.
While many folks tout the old adage “I will sleep when I am dead,” the risks and adverse effects of sleep deprivation and sleep disorders can be profound. It is not difficult to see the dangers of sleepiness and fatigue in action. Drowsy driving, poorer academic and occupational performance, aggressive tendencies, higher incidence of major depression, increased suicidality. Poignant examples of sleep-related incidents have infiltrated our headlines: Chernobyl, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Three Mile Island, to name a few. Sleep deprivation is a common culprit of human error. While magnified by these tragedies, sleep deprivation takes its toll, perhaps equally as tragic, on millions of Americans, whose functioning as well as mental and physical health suffer on a daily basis due to inadequate sleep. Not only is this true for individuals who do not a lot an adequate amount of time to sleep, but disorders such as Insomnia also confer serious health risks. One of the most compelling findings is that individuals with Insomnia Disorder, when left untreated, are more likely to develop an episode of depression.
The good news is that sleep is a modifiable risk factor. For example, the American College of Physicians’ just recently (May 2016) endorsed CBT-I as the initial treatment for chronic insomnia. CBT-I does not rely on pharmacologic agents or hypnotic medications and has been shown to significantly reduce the time it takes to fall asleep and the duration of wakefulness after sleep onset. And the treatment response has been shown to last over time (shown in up to 2 years in some studies). It takes some habit-breaking, some lifestyle adjustments, and/or some new perspectives about sleep, but effective, evidence-based practices are available to improve sleep. This being said, the dissemination and availability of treatments such as CBT-I has been limited. So few health care providers and patients are aware that such strategies even exist and are accessible.
The encouraging news is that we are here to help. We are committed to working with you about how to obtain sufficient sleep. For those who desire a good night sleep, yet feel as if you can’t sleep or struggle falling asleep or staying asleep, despite adequate opportunity, we are equipped and eager to provide you with CBT-I, which does not rely on medication, to help you overcome your sleepless nights. We are here to help you recognize that prioritizing your sleep is a good investment.
1 Banks, S Dorrian, J, Basner, M, Dinges, D. (2016). Sleep deprivation. In M Kryger, T Roth, W Dement (6th Edition). Principles and Practice of Sleep Medicine. Elsevier. pp49-55
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Effects of short sleep duration on daily activities-United States, 2005-2008. MMWR Morn Mortal Weekly Report. 60:239-242 2011. PMID 21368739
3 National Sleep Foundation sleepfoundation.org.