Effects of Chronic Insomnia Differ in Men and Women

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September 22, 2010

Effects of Chronic Insomnia Differ in Men and Women

A recent study published in the journal SLEEP found that men with chronic insomnia who slept for less than six hours were four times more likely to die during the 14-year follow-up period (odds ratio = 4.33) than men without insomnia who slept for six hours or more. These findings further emphasize the importance of diagnosis and treatment of insomnia and other sleep disorders. "The primary finding of our study is that insomnia, the most common sleep disorder, is associated with significant mortality in men," said principal investigator Alexandros N. Vgontzas, MD, professor of psychiatry in the Department of Psychiatry at Penn State College of Medicine and Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, Pa. "Until now no study has demonstrated that insomnia is associated with mortality. Our different results are based on our novel approach to define insomnia both on a subjective complaint and the objective physiological marker of short sleep duration measured in the sleep lab." Interestingly, no significant mortality risk was found in women with insomnia and sleep duration of less than six hours. 741 men (average age 50) and 1,000 women (average age 47 years) participated in the study . The length of sleep was measured by polysomnography. For the purpose of the study, researchers defined the presence of chronic insomnia as a complaint of insomnia for at least one year. Eight percent of women and four percent of men had chronic insomnia with sleep duration of less than six hours. The authors hope that "...cumulatively these findings will increase the awareness among physicians and scientists that insomnia should be diagnosed early and treated appropriately," said Vgontzas. Learn more about treating insomnia and follow us on Twitter for sleep tips.