Impact of insomnia on health and performance

A sampling of information publicly available is given below.

Extent of the problem

  • More than 60 million Americans are estimated to suffer from insomnia annually
  • This is expected to grow to 100 million by the middle of the 21st century.

Cost to society 

  • The total direct, indirect and related costs of insomnia are estimated at $US 30 to 35 billion annually in the US (1994 dollars).

Health

  • Psychiatric problems, such as depression or an anxiety disorder
  • Overweight or obesity
  • Poor immune system function
  • Increased risk and severity of long-term diseases, such as high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes
  • Although stress and depression are major causes of insomnia, insomnia may also increase the activity of the hormones and pathways in the brain that can produce emotional problems. Research indicates that chronic insomnia can increase the risk of developing depression and anxiety.
  • Even modest alterations in waking and sleeping patterns can have significant effects on a person’s mood. In both children and adults, the combination of insomnia and daytime sleepiness can produce more severe depression than either condition alone.

Performance and quality of life 

  • Lower performance on the job or at school
  • Surveys show that people with severe insomnia have a quality of life that is almost as poor as those who have chronic conditions, such as heart failure.
  • Daytime sleepiness can lead to decreased energy, irritability, mistakes at work and school, and poorer relationships.
  • Studies suggest that insomnia makes it harder to concentrate and perform tasks. Deep sleep deprivation impairs the brain’s ability to process information and reduces concentration.
  • Insomnia itself is not life threatening, but it can increase the risk of accidents, psychiatric problems, and certain medical conditions, affect school and work performance, and significantly interfere with quality of life. Lack of sleep can cause weight gain and obesity.
  • Increased Risk of Accidents. Sleepiness increases the risk for motor vehicle accidents. Studies indicate that drowsy driving is as risky as drunk driving.

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