Quiz results: How much do you know about insomnia?
Plenty of things can come between you and a good night’s sleep: stress. Anxiety. Pain. Check out our quiz results to see how you can improve your insomnia IQ—and get expert-approved tips on how to up the number of Zzzzs you get every night.
1. Who is most likely to suffer from insomnia?
Research shows that women are twice as likely as men to have insomnia. There are many reasons for this but the main offender is hormones, says Grandner. “Some life stages that women may face—such as pregnancy, postpartum and menopause—can cause sleep problems,” he explains. “Although hormone changes seem to be a likely culprit in menopause, the reasons behind sleep disturbance in pregnancy and postpartum involve many other causes. For example, in pregnancy, low iron can cause restless legs syndrome, metabolic changes can lead to gestational sleep apnea and physical discomfort can lead to insomnia. During the postpartum period, in addition to hormones, infant sleep patterns—or lack thereof—lead to a great deal of sleep disruption.”
Changes in lifestyle also figure in, adds Grandner. “Many women can become light sleepers when they become caretakers or new moms—listening for sounds during the night—and can remain light sleepers even after the need is no longer present.”
Complicating matters, women also experience insomnia differently than men do. For example, in older adults, women are likely to have multiple symptoms of insomnia, whereas men often report only one.
2. True or False: Insomnia can be fatal.
‘Sleep debt’ is the difference between the amount of sleep you need and the amount you actually get. Unfortunately, once you’re in debt, it’s hard to make up the difference, even on weekends.
A couple of sleepless nights—even a couple weeks’ worth of sleepless nights—won’t kill you (whew!). But sleeping fewer than seven hours per night on a regular basis ups your risk of diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and stroke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
In fact, studies based on more than 1,700 men and women followed over many years by researchers at Penn State University College of Medicine found that the risk of developing high blood pressure was five times greater among those who slept less than five hours a night as compared to those who slept more than six hours a night. Similarly, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes was three times greater for those with insomnia and those who slept less than five hours per night.
3. True or False: Insomnia raises your risk for depression.
Insomnia does seem to increase your risk for clinical depression. “Many epidemiological studies have shown that a reciprocal relationship exists between the appearance of insomnia and depression, although the biological basis of this relationship remains poorly understood,” says Wayne Drevets, M.D., Vice President, Neuropsychiatry Disease Area Leader, Janssen. “These studies show that a person with no prior history of clinical depression who begins to experience a new onset of persistent or recurrent insomnia is highly likely to develop a depressive episode within the next one to two years.”
And research suggests the reverse is also true. People with clinical depression—also known as major depressive disorder (MDD), which includes symptoms of depression like anxiety, apathy or feelings of hopelessness lasting at least 2 weeks—"commonly manifest sleep disturbances, which occur most prominently when they are experiencing a major depressive episode,” says Dr. Drevets. “In most people with MDD, the sleep disturbance is characterized by difficulties in falling asleep and/or staying asleep.”
Researchers are continuing to research and develop effective treatments to address these unmet needs (for both MDD and insomnia).
4. In which month of the year are you most susceptible to insomnia?
Americans are most vulnerable to sleep deprivation in mid-March, (no) thanks to daylight saving time. In one study, participants slept 40 minutes less on the Monday after “springing forward,” compared to other nights of the year. Even worse, the effects can linger, since the one-hour time shift—which results in less exposure to light in the AM and greater exposure in the PM—wreaks havoc with the internal clock known as circadian rhythm. (Switching back to standard time in November doesn’t have the same effect.)
To keep daylight saving from having its way with your sleep, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) suggests gradually altering your bedtime. Two to three days before the transition, try waking up 15 to 20 minutes earlier than usual to help your body make a smoother transition when you spring forward. Grandner also suggests going to bed a little earlier that night, as well as the night before.
5. True or False: Sleeping in on weekends is a good way to catch up on missed Zzzs during the week.
What’s known as “sleep debt” is the difference between the amount of sleep you need and the amount you actually get. Unfortunately, once you’re in debt, it’s hard to make up the difference, even on weekends. Research suggests it can take up to four days to recover from one hour of lost sleep and up to nine days to eliminate sleep debt altogether.
The CDC found that people who sleep less than six hours per day are more likely to fall asleep behind the wheel.
“Sleep is not like a bank account,” says Grandner. “Sleeping in on weekends while sleep depriving yourself during the week is like eating salad on the weekend after eating cheeseburgers and pizza during the week. Sure, the salads are better and may make up for some of the poor dietary choices during the week, but you will not eliminate all the negative effects that way. It’s better to just find a sleep rhythm that is as balanced as possible.”
To that end, try these tips: Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day (consistency is everything when it comes to resyncing your circadian rhythm); turn off any electronic device with a screen—your TV, tablet, computer, phone—two hours before bedtime (the blue light from these devices stimulates areas of the brain that make you feel alert); and set up your bedroom so that it’s conducive to sleep, such as controlling the temperature, light and noise level and eliminating sources of stress.
6. Melatonin is…
If all you know about melatonin is what you assume just by walking down the supplements aisle of your local pharmacy, you could be forgiven for thinking of it as a magic sleeping pill. Melatonin is actually a hormone produced naturally by the body. Its production increases with evening darkness, promoting healthy sleep and helping to orient your circadian rhythm.
According to the National Institutes of Health, melatonin supplements may improve sleep for some people by compensating for low levels of melatonin in the body. But research has yet to provide strong enough evidence on the effectiveness or safety of melatonin supplements for chronic insomnia to satisfy the AASM and the American College of Physicians (ACP), both of which decline to recommend its use as a treatment for insomnia. (Instead, ACP guidelines point to cognitive behavioral therapy.)
7. True or False: Everyone needs at least 7 hours of sleep per night to stay healthy.
Although it’s true that most adults need at least seven hours of sleep per night to stay healthy and feel rested, a small percentage of people can thrive on less than six hours of sleep per night, according to the AASM.
Not to be confused with people who are chronically sleep-deprived, “short sleepers” are born requiring fewer Zzzs to function normally during the day, thanks to so-called short-sleeper genes. Since they show no obvious daytime dysfunction and don’t complain of sleep difficulties, they are considered healthy sleepers.
8. True or False: A single night of missed Zzzs can raise your risk of a car accident.
Research shows that driving while sleep-deprived (a.k.a. “drowsy driving”) is as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol. According to the CDC, getting behind the wheel after being awake for at least 18 hours is the same as driving with a blood alcohol content of .05%. Driving after being awake for at least 24 hours straight is equal to having a blood alcohol content of .10%, (the legal limit is .08%). That’s not all: The CDC also found that people who sleep less than six hours per day (not counting short sleepers) are more likely to fall asleep behind the wheel.
Set up your bedroom so that it’s conducive to sleep, such as controlling the temperature, light and noise level.
If you begin to experience the warning signs of drowsy driving—yawning, nodding off—it’s not enough to simply blast the radio at full volume or crank up the air conditioner. The CDC recommends changing drivers. If that’s not possible, pull over to a safe place and take a 20-minute nap. Better yet, call it a day.