A new study has uncovered a new potential cause for insomnia among adults. Researchers studied a small group of college students in
and discovered that coincidentally almost 50% of the participants claiming to
sleep poorly had also reported a fear of the dark. Toronto
To test their fear of the dark, researchers measured their blink response to sudden noises in both light and darkness. Those who claimed to sleep well quickly became accustomed to the noises whereas those claiming to sleep poorly anticipated the noise more in the dark.
"The poor sleepers were more easily startled in the dark compared with the good sleepers," said Taryn Moss, the study's lead author. "As treatment providers, we assume that poor sleepers become tense when the lights go out because they associate the bed with being unable to sleep. Now we're wondering how many people actually have an active and untreated phobia."
Therefore, insomnia cases where a fear of the dark is present may require different types of treatment. The principal investigator, Colleen Carney, PhD, indicated that current insomnia treatments are highly effective for most people. There are a select few that do not respond to treatment and cannot fully recover from their insomnia. Perhaps those individuals may fear the dark and require different treatment methods. “For example, the most effective insomnia treatments encourage people to leave the dark bedroom and go into another, lit room; however, this would not be a way to treat a dark-related phobia.”
Further investigation could mean better treatment and, most of all, sleep for those untreatable patients.
How much sleep do we really need? According to many sources…
- Newborns: 13 to 17 hours
- 2 years and up: 9 to 13 hours
- 10 years and up: 10 to 11 hours
- 16 to 65 years: 6 to 9 hours
- over 65 years: 6 to 8 hours
For those unable to meet the suggested hours of sleep may be experiencing insomnia. It has been said that insomnia affects about 30-40% of adults in any given year.
Insomnia can be defined as difficulties falling and/or staying sleep, or non-restorative sleep, that is associated with impairments of daytime functioning. Insomnia can be…
Transient: Lasting less than 1 week. Potential causes may be another disorder, changes in the sleep environment, the timing of sleep, severe depression or stress. Consequences include sleepiness and impaired psychomotor performance similar to sleep deprivation.
Acute: Lasting less than 1 month, but more than 1 week. Insomnia occurs despite adequate opportunity and circumstances for sleep and result in problems with daytime functioning. It is also known as short term insomnia or stress related insomnia.
Chronic: Lasting longer than 1 month. It may be caused by another disorder, or it may be a primary disorder. People with high levels of stress hormones or shifts in the levels of cytokines are more likely to have chronic insomnia. Effects vary according to its causes and can include: muscular fatigue, hallucinations, and/or mental fatigue. Some people that live with this disorder see things as if they are happening in slow motion, wherein moving objects seem to blend together. Chronic insomnia can cause double vision.
Some causes of insomnia include:
- A variety of medical conditions such as hyperthyroidism and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Mental disorders such as bipolar disorder, clinical depression, generalized anxiety disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive compulsive disorder, or dementia.
- Certain neurological disorders, brain lesions, or a history of traumatic brain injury
- A variety of medications such as decongestants, stimulants and some antidepressants
- Withdrawal from depressant drugs such as opioids and benzodiazepines.
- Use of fluoroquinolone (broad-spectrum antibiotics that play an important role in treatment of serious bacterial infections)
- Nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol.
- Abuse of over-the counter or prescription sleep aids such as sedatives or depressants can produce rebound insomnia.
- Inactivity during the day.
- Poor sleep habits
- Sleep problems such as sleep apnea.
- Life events such as fear, stress, anxiety, emotional or mental tension, work problems, financial stress, birth of a child and bereavement.
- Restless Legs Syndrome (a neurological disorder characterized by an irresistible urge to move one's body to stop uncomfortable or odd sensations during wakefulness)
- Periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD) is previously known as nocturnal myoclonus, is a sleep disorder where the patient moves limbs involuntarily during sleep, and has symptoms or problems related to the movement.
- Parasomnias, such as nightmares, sleepwalking, night terrors, violent behavior while sleeping, and REM behavior disorder, in which the physical body moves in response to events within dreams.
- Hormone shifts such as those that precede menstruation or during menopause.
- Circadian rhythm disturbances, such as shift work and jet lag (east to west travel).
- Exercise-induced insomnia (common in athletes, causing prolonged sleep onset latency.)
- Pain from injury or medical conditions
- A rare genetic condition can cause a prion-based, permanent and eventually fatal form of insomnia called fatal familial insomnia
- From this lengthy list, it is clear that diagnosing and treating insomnia would be a very difficult task. Therefore it seems like the best option would be to talk it over with a doctor if you are experiencing insomnia.