We often take sleep, the number of hours we get to sleep, or the quality of sleep we get, for granted. However, that may not be such a wise idea, as insomnia, a disorder that affects how you fall asleep, stay asleep, or a combination of the two, is becoming a major concern.
According to a study published in 2011 and coordinated by the World Health Organization, insomnia costs U.S. employers a whopping $63 billion annually. Based on research that studied some 7,400-plus employed people across the United States, 23% suffered from insomnia at least three times a week, which resulted in the equivalent of 7.8 days of lost productivity each year — or about $2,300 for an average employee’s salary.
The effects of insomnia can range from mild sleepiness at work and tension headaches to potentially serious side effects such as depression and gastrointestinal symptoms. There’s little sense in denying that at some point we all suffer from a case of insomnia in our lives, but the scary aspect is that some people live with this disorder on a regular, or chronic, basis.
According to the Mayo Clinic, there are six risk factors that can put you at a higher risk of developing insomnia (in no particular order):
- Being a woman: First off, let’s not put men in the clear here, because they can get insomnia as well. However, hormonal fluctuations caused by menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause give women a far greater chance of developing insomnia than men. In addition, as we talked about a few weeks back, women are also more likely to develop certain types of depressive disorders that can lead to insomnia.
- Being over age 60: As we get older our sleep patterns have a habit of changing, which can wreak havoc on our bodies. Some of us learn to adapt with less sleep than others, but as a general rule, we need more recuperative sleep as we get older, to rest our bodies. If we don’t get that sleep, some of those aforementioned unwanted mild to severe symptoms could develop.
- Having a mental health disorder: Certain diseases predispose people to a greater risk of developing insomnia. Anxiety, bipolar, and depressive disorders are three such ailments that often result in a higher percentage of people with insomnia. The Cleveland Children’s Clinic further expounds on these disorders to include autism, as well as medical disorders such as fibromyalgia, heartburn, and thyroid disease.
- Being stressed out: Back in May we looked at the three most common diseases caused by stress and learned that two of them, anxiety disorders and depression, are both high risk factors for causing insomnia. We’ve all probably dealt with some degree of insomnia related to our jobs; however, some people develop chronic insomnia based on life-altering events such as the loss of a loved one. According to the Mayo Clinic, unemployed people and those of low income are also at higher risk of developing insomnia.
- Working at night or changing shifts often: Nearly all of us prefer some stability in our sleep patterns. Admittedly, that can be difficult to get if you’re working in a retail or overnight job, where your hours are subject to change on a daily or weekly basis. Without any real consistency, it can be difficult to get the proper amount of rest.
- Traveling a lot: No joke — jet lag is a serious cause for concern. Traveling by plane across multiple time zones on a regular basis is a tiring experience, but it can also mess with people’s internal clocks in a bad way, causing them to lose much-needed sleep.
Two ways to fix this
The medical community looks at insomnia from multiple perspectives, but the big key is whether this is a very temporary ailment for the individual, or if it’s a chronic or recurring disorder.