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How disturbed nights can disrupt our daily life
As humans, we spend approximately a third of our lives asleep, but a lack of good quality sleep can negatively affect our daily lives and long-term health in many significant ways,1 such as:
- Limiting our ability to make decisions and halting our attention span2
- Affecting our general wellbeing and ability to work productively3
- Increasing our risk of developing conditions like heart disease, stroke, and diabetes4
- Increase risk of cognitive impairment such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease5
Sleep is one of the three key pillars of health, alongside healthy diet and exercise,6 and is foundational to our physical, mental, and social well-being. People living with insomnia are awake when everyone else is asleep and exhausted when the rest of the world is energetic and active. The lack of sleep, or poor quality sleep can make the activities of the following day more challenging as it could reduce reaction time, alertness, ability to solve problems or remember things.7
What does good quality sleep look like?
When it comes to measuring how well we sleep, it is common to focus on the number of hours spent asleep, but the quality of our sleep and the impact that our sleep has on how we both feel and function the next day are just as important.8 A lack of good quality sleep affects our ability to make decisions and limits our attention span, impacting both our professional and personal lives.
The next time you consider if you had a good night’s sleep, it’s worth asking yourself:
- How restorative did my sleep feel?
- Do I feel refreshed from my sleep?
- Do I feel rested and ready to handle the challenges of life until my next sleep?
While these measures offer good general guidance, it is also important to remember that “good quality sleep” varies from person to person. However, we all need sleep and scientists think that sleep is necessary for the brain to cleanse itself, consolidate memory, and is a physiological necessity equivalent to eating and drinking.9
What causes disturbed sleep?
The lack of good quality sleep could be attributed to insomnia, the most common sleep-wake disorder. There are different categories of insomnia as the condition can be something that happens occasionally, during certain periods of time, or persistently. When it is persistent, it is known as chronic insomnia.
Latest scientific research has shown that healthy wake and sleep states are regulated by separate signalling systems in the brain. Chronic insomnia is believed to be the result of overactive wake signalling in the brain, also called ‘hyperarousal’.10 Basically, think of this as a light switch – when the switch is turned on, your brain is being told to stay “active” and when the switch is off, your brain knows it can “rest.”11 If you are unable to flip the switch to off, your brain stays active even when you are tired and trying to sleep.
What is chronic insomnia?
Chronic insomnia affects between 6-10% of adult population worldwide.12 According to the American Psychiatric Association13, here are some questions to ask yourself to start understanding if you may suffer from chronic insomnia:
- Do you experience one or more of the following symptoms?
- Difficulties falling asleep?
- Difficulties staying asleep (waking up frequently or can’t fall asleep after waking up in the middle of the night)?
- Waking up before the alarm or in the early mornings and can’t fall back to sleep again?
- If yes, do you experience one or more of these symptoms at least 3 nights a week?
- If yes, have your symptoms lasted for at least 3 months?
If the above is true, you may want to visit a healthcare professional to see if you are suffering from chronic insomnia14,15 or another sleep disorder. Chronic insomnia is very different from a short-term period of poor sleep. It is a serious medical condition that can take its toll on an individual’s physical and mental health.1
People suffering from chronic insomnia may notice an increase in fatigue, reduced energy levels, mood changes, and cognitive difficulties after multiple nights of poor sleep.16 They are also twice as likely to develop depression compared to people with normal sleep patterns.17 In the long term, chronic insomnia is associated with lots of additional health complications, such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.18 Chronic insomnia also disrupts people’s professional lives, leading them to be absent from work twice as much as people without the condition.19
We need sleep to be able to function properly throughout the day, but, despite this, common sleep disorders like chronic insomnia are some of the most neglected medical conditions seen in family practice.20 It is important that chronic insomnia disease is recognized as a legitimate medical condition on World Sleep Day!
Everyone deserves a good quality night’s sleep
At Idorsia, our scientists have over 20 years of experience in sleep research and continue to work on better understanding of the science of sleep and chronic insomnia disorder. We believe that everyone deserves a good quality night’s sleep not only because your brain needs it, but because the lack of sleep can prove challenging for you during the day. It’s time to change the way we look at sleep. It’s not something that happens at the end of the day… Start your tomorrow with a good quality sleep.
Together with World Sleep Society, we are calling for focused education to highlight the severe impact poor quality sleep can have on our lives, reframe thinking around what constitutes good quality sleep, and provide education and resources about sleep disorders like chronic insomnia.
Speak to your doctor for advice about sleep issues and for more information on insomnia visit: http://bit.ly/2Jvul8g
 Chattu, Vijay, et al. “The Global Problem of Insufficient Sleep and Its Serious Public Health Implications.” Healthcare, vol. 7, no. 1, 20 Dec. 2018, p. 1. NCBI, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6473877/,
 Whitney, P., Hinson, J.M., Jackson, M.L. and Van Dongen, H.P.A. (2015). Feedback Blunting: Total Sleep Deprivation Impairs Decision Making that Requires Updating Based on Feedback. Sleep, 38(5), pp.745–754.
 Hafner, M, et al. Why sleep matters — the economic costs of insufficient sleep: A cross-country comparative analysis. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2016. Available at: https://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1791.html.
 Kalmbach, David A., et al. “DSM-5 Insomnia and Short Sleep: Comorbidity Landscape and Racial Disparities.” SLEEP, vol. 39, no. 12, 1 Dec. 2016, pp. 2101–2111.
 Castillo, M. “The 3 Pillars of Health.” American Journal of Neuroradiology, vol. 36, no. 1, 12 June 2014, pp. 1–2.
 Ustinov, Yuriy, et al. “Association between Report of Insomnia and Daytime Functioning.” Sleep Medicine, vol. 11, no. 1, Jan. 2010, pp. 65–68.
 Kohyama, Jun. “Which Is More Important for Health: Sleep Quantity or Sleep Quality?” Children, vol. 8, no. 7, 24 June 2021, p. 542.
 Purves D, et al, eds. Chapter 28. In: Neuroscience. 6th ed. Sunderland, MA: Oxford University Press; 2018.
 Levenson, Jessica C., et al. “The Pathophysiology of Insomnia.” Chest, vol. 147, no. 4, Apr. 2015, pp. 1179–1192.
 Saper, Clifford B, et al. “The Sleep Switch: Hypothalamic Control of Sleep and Wakefulness.” Trends in Neurosciences, vol. 24, no. 12, Dec. 2001, pp. 726–731.
 Calem, Maria, et al. “Increased Prevalence of Insomnia and Changes in Hypnotics Use in England over 15 Years: Analysis of the 1993, 2000, and 2007 National Psychiatric Morbidity Surveys.” Sleep, vol. 35, no. 3, 1 Mar. 2012, pp. 377–384.
 DSM-5.Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association; 2013.
 Sateia, M.J. (2014). International Classification of Sleep Disorders-Third Edition. Chest, [online] 146(5), pp.1387–1394.
 American Psychiatric Association (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5(5).
 Morin, C.M., Drake, C.L., Harvey, A.G., Krystal, A.D., Manber, R., Riemann, D. and Spiegelhalder, K. (2015). Insomnia disorder. Nature Reviews Disease Primers, 1(1).
 Li et al. BMC Psychiatry. 2016;16:375.
 Budhiraja R, Roth T, Hudgel DW, Budhiraja P, Drake CL. Prevalence and polysomnographic correlates of insomnia comorbid with medical disorders. Sleep. 2011 Jul 1;34(7):859-67.
 Léger D, et al. Sleep. 2002;25(6):625-629.
 Bhaskar, S., Hemavathy, D. and Prasad, S. (2016). Prevalence of chronic insomnia in adult patients and its correlation with medical comorbidities. Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, [online] 5(4), pp.780–784.