The emotions, of course, are inextricably tied to the way we feel we sleep, and the way we describe it. Drs McGhie and Russell carried out a survey at Glasgow and Danuedeein Scotland of 2,500 people of varying age and social class and found that those who thought they were of a nervous temperament were also more often those who felt that they sleep badly. Let’s find out who is most likely to suffer from insomnia?
Your physical characteristics can also influence the way you sleep. As we discuss more detail people who are underweight, or losing weight, may find they experience poor sleep.
Who is most likely to suffer from insomnia men or women?
More women than men
In many countries of the world, surveys have been conducted in which large numbers of people have been asked to say how many hours of sleep they think they get; how lightly or deeply they think they sleep; whether they waken frequently in the night; or whether they think either they have difficulty in getting to sleep or wake up early in the morning, or just do not feel refreshed by their sleep.
The results of the surveys show that around twice as many women report problems with their sleep as men, and this is true for all age groups.
Despite the fact that no one has been able to prove there is an objective difference between the sleep of men and women, one possible explanation may be that as most women do not expend as much energy by day as me, they may wear out their body tissues so much by day, and so nature may have designed them to needless intensely restorative sleep at night.
Another possible reason is that women’s restorative sleep is in some way disturbed by the constant change in their hormonal pattern during the menstrual cycle.
We cannot at the present say for sure why women suffer from insomnia more than men; clearly, a great deal more research is needed in this area.
Many women pass through later middle life without being troubled by the traditional symptoms of the menopause or change of life others, and especially if the menopause occurs earlier than average are burdened by unpleasant hot flushes feelings of depression, irritability towards those around them and by a sense of poor and broken sleep.
Some seek to alleviate these feelings with alcohol, many with pills for their nerves or with sleeping drugs, which in the long run have a detrimental effect on their sleep that can persist even when the menopause has become a thing of the past. Some doctors believe it is possible to relieve the unpleasant symptoms of the menopause including insomnia by prescribing pills containing the hormone oestrogen.
To test how well this treatment works we invited thirty-two menopausal women who were dissatisfied with their sleep to come to our laboratory for several months at a stretch so that we could monitor their sleep by measuring their electrical brain waves.
We gave all the volunteers identical-looking pills to take without telling them which contained only an inactive substance and which contained oestrogen.
Over the weeks there were many improvements in how the women felt and slept, but the degree of improvements in sleep was greater among those who were taking the genuine oestrogen pills than among those who took the inactive ones.
This so-called ‘hormone replacement therapy for women after the menopause will also prevent the thinning of the bones that occurs throughout the rest of their lives, as well as having the small but definite beneficial effect on their sleep.
How wise it is to interfere with the natural course of ageing in this way remains a subject of much debate among doctors and the history of medical treatments should make us cautious, in the case in future decoded we learn that the treatment can have unforeseen disadvantages.
As people approach old age dissatisfaction with their sleep tends to become more common; and this is reflected in the increased rate of prescription for sleeping pills from their doctors again, especially among women.
In the Scottish survey mentioned previously, nearly 45 per cent of 75-year-old women regularly took drugs for sleep.
Contact with other people is very important for older people, whether with family or friend or through social clubs and organizations.
Outside interests and support may well provide the psychological uplift needed to restore a greater degree of satisfaction with sleep.
Whether we feel we are ageing gracefully or not, our brains are slowly losing tissue-at the rate of about 2g per year from as early as the age of thirty.
We must stress that there is plenty of reserve tissue in the brain, but with time the effects of age must inevitably tell on any of us.
As the brain changes with age, so its demand for blood is reduced hand in hand with a slight lessening of powers of concentration and memory (happily often compensated for by a greater degree of carefulness and conscientiousness).
The greater disruption of sleep marches in step with these other brain changes.
The actual duration of sleep may not alter much, but the consolidation of nighttime sleep into an almost unbroken stretch happens less frequently and less effectively.
In Gainesville, Florida a group of research workers used electrical brain wave recording got to study the sleep of healthy male and female volunteers of differing ages, ranging from infancy to their seventies.
They made measurements of how frequently sleep was broken spontaneously during the night and was able to confirm that as age advances, so sleep does indeed become more broken for both men and women.
Many elderly people feel they can compensate by taking daytime naps, and so it is that the child’s pattern of a nap in the early afternoon often returns with old age.
We should not allow our emphasis on age as an accompaniment of dissatisfaction with sleep to blind us to the fact that there are a number of children, adolescents and young’s adults who feel there is something wrong with their sleep.
In Drs McGhee and Russell’s survey of 2500 people in Scotland, there were 400 persons aged 15-24 years and among these, there was 5 per cent who regarded their sleep as disturbed and who often took ills whether prescribed drugs or remedies bought from pharmacies.
In a similar study of 1,600 people in Gainesville, Florida, 6 per cent of the 18-19-year-olds said that they found it difficult to sleep.
Like their elders to young people who feel troubled by their sleep are also those who feel troubled by their nerves.
In one study in Chicago, Dr Monroe selected from among 200 students, a group of 16 who considered themselves, particularly poor sleepers and a similar group of 16 especially good sleepers.
In their answers to questionnaires and in the assessment of their personality the poor sleepers appeared to have a more depressing outlook on life.
On the other side of the world in Melbourne, Australia a very similar study was carried out by Dr M. Johns on medical students of average age 21 and once again complaints of poor sleep and nightmares were associated with psychological problems and especially with a sense of low self-esteem.
There was a furthermore detailed and revealing study in a senior high school in the San Francisco Bay area. Among 639 pupils 12 per cent said that they thought they had persistent sleep problems such as taking more than 45 minutes to fall asleep at least three times a week.
These pupils were distinguished from the other by the worry and tension revealed in their answer to the other questions. They particularly mentioned low self-esteem, than their classmates.
They particularly mentioned low self-esteem and feeling moody and depressed most of the time. This suggests that as with adults, insomnia goes hand in hand with psychological problems by day.
It is not merely a matter of having only a small number of hours sleep for in that same high school the pupils made estimates of how many hours they slept and there were 23 who said that they usually only slept for 3 to 5 hours, and while 12 of these pupils were among those who regard themselves as poor sleepers the other 11 had no complaints at all about their sleep.
It is not the duration of sleep, but the sense of satisfaction with sleep that counts. Here once again is this link between contentment with nocturnal sleep and general psychological contentment by day.
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- How weight affects your sleep quality?
- Common side effects of sleeping pills
- Common sleeping medicine/drugs that can make you sleep
- Drugs that keep you awake at night
- How does insomnia affect your life?
- Causes of insomnia and how to cope with insomnia
- What is sleep insomnia?
- How to get better sleep naturally?
- How does sleep deprivation affect you?
- What causes lack of sleep at night
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- What happens when we dream?
- Types and the stages of sleep
- Various methods of sleep measurement
- How hormones affect sleep quality?
- What happens as we fall asleep?
- How Do We Fall Asleep?