Approximately 30 percent of Poles of various age, including teenagers, complain of insomnia. When untreated, it has a negative impact on physical and mental health – including an increased risk of circulatory system diseases and diabetes.

According to the definition provided by the Sleep Disorders Centre at the Institute of Psychiatry and Neurology in Warsaw, insomnia means trouble with falling or staying asleep for more than three days in a week, which persists for over one month, and impedes the functions during the day. This concerns 9 to 15 percent of the population of developed countries. An additional 15-20 percent have temporary problems with insomnia.

The causes of insomnia

The various studies conducted in Poland over the past several years has demonstrated that approximately 30 percent of people of various age complain of insomnia.

In 10-20 percent, insomnia is usually caused by so-called initial sleep disorders. These are usually associated with stressful events in life, such as the loss of someone close, divorce, being fired from work. Such events initially cause temporary sleeping disorders, which can become chronic due to improper mechanisms of treating insomnia.

The escalation of insomnia in contemporary societies may also be caused by an irregular lifestyle.

Females are more susceptible

Females are more susceptible to insomnia than males. Surveys conducted by TNS OBOP (currently TNS Poland) in 2005 revealed that at that time 43 percent of females and 29 percent of males complained of trouble with sleep. 20 percent of females admitted that they suffered from insomnia every day or almost every day, and 43 percent admitted to having had such problems several times a month.

The more common incidence of insomnia in females results from the fact that women are also more susceptible to depression, which is one of the more important factors of sleeping disorder risks. A considerable role may also be played by the swings of sex hormone levels at different stages of life and during the menstrual cycle.

The scientists of the Sleep Disorders Centre include the following among the main causes of insomnia: mental disorders, especially mood and anxiety disorders, addictions, particularly to alcohol, sedatives, and sleeping pills, as well as physical diseases – mainly those accompanied by pain, metabolic and hormonal disorders, such as hyperthyroidism.

Where to seek help

Insomnia should be underestimated. Not just because it entails fatigue, which can cause traffic or work-related accidents. Numerous studies have confirmed that insomnia gradually destroys our mental and physical health. It is one of the factors in the development of depression, circulatory system problems, including heart attacks, and metabolic disorders, such as type 2 diabetes.

The experts from the Sleep Disorders Centre recommend that people experiencing sleeping problems visit a primary care physician, who will examine whether the disorder is caused by a physical disease. The next step is for the patient to be referred to a psychiatrist, and when mental disorders are eliminated, the patient can be referred to a sleep disorders centre.

The preferred form of therapy for chronic insomnia is educating on the basic rules of sleeping hygiene and cognitive and behavioural therapy. Sleeping pills are used only for a short time – up to four weeks, due to the risk of addiction and undesired effects. It is a big mistake to try to cope with insomnia with alcohol, because it may only escalate the problem.

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