Understanding the Link Between Insomnia and Premature Death: Effects of Long-Term Insomnia


In our fast-paced world, sleep often takes a backseat to the demands of modern life. But did you know that around 8 percent of premature deaths are linked to long-term insomnia? Researchers from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, US, have shed light on the significant impact poor sleep patterns can have on our health. Even though these deaths might be attributed to known life-threatening conditions like heart disease, the underlying cause could be our sleep habits.

Understanding the Link Between Insomnia and Premature Death: Effects of Long-Term Insomnia
Long-Term Insomnia Can Kill You.

The Research Findings

Studying the health and sleeping habits of 172,321 individuals with an average age of 50 for over four years, researchers discovered that the quality of sleep plays a crucial role in longevity. Those who exhibited all five healthy sleep patterns – sleeping for seven or eight hours, experiencing difficulty falling asleep on no more than two nights a week, facing trouble staying asleep for no more than two nights a week, refraining from using sleep medication, and feeling well-rested after sleep five days a week – were significantly more likely to live longer.

Participants with all five qualities were 30 percent less likely to die prematurely, 21 percent less likely to die from heart disease, 19 percent less likely to die from cancer, and 40 percent less likely to die from any other cause compared to those who had none or only one of these sleep qualities. Men who scored high on all five sleep patterns enjoyed a life expectancy nearly five years longer than those who scored lower. Similarly, women with all five qualities gained around two and a half years of additional life expectancy.

Insomnia and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Insomnia, a common sleep disorder, can disrupt our ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has emerged as an effective treatment for long-term sleep problems like insomnia. Unlike sleeping pills, CBT delves into the root causes of sleep problems, helping individuals replace negative thoughts and behaviors with habits that support healthy sleep.

The cognitive aspect of CBT addresses beliefs that hinder sleep, aiding in controlling negative thoughts that keep us awake. The behavioral aspect fosters the development of good sleep habits and the elimination of behaviors that hinder sleep quality. CBT can involve changes to routines, setting sleep limits, adopting healthier lifestyle habits, improving the sleep environment, learning relaxation techniques, and even using biofeedback.

CBT vs. Medication

Many individuals resort to over-the-counter sleeping pills before seeking help for insomnia, but these might not be the best long-term solution. Unlike medications that simply relieve symptoms, CBT targets the underlying causes of insomnia. It's essential to consider that while some prescription sleep medicines can provide short-term relief, they can come with serious side effects and might not fully resolve insomnia symptoms.

CBT offers a more comprehensive approach to managing insomnia by addressing the root causes. While it does require effort and time, its long-lasting effects make it a valuable treatment choice. In some cases, a combination of sleep medicine and CBT could be recommended for optimal results.

Finding Help and Conclusion

CBT for insomnia can be delivered by various healthcare providers, including behavioral sleep medicine specialists and primary care teams. Finding the right practitioner and treatment schedule might require some effort, but the benefits are well worth it. Sessions can vary from one to eight or more, depending on individual needs and progress. Remember to inquire about the treatment approach, expectations, and whether your health insurance covers the treatment.

CBT is a powerful tool for anyone experiencing sleep problems, regardless of the cause. Its positive effects are long-lasting, and there's no evidence of harmful side effects. So, if you're struggling with insomnia, consider exploring the world of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. While it might take practice and patience, the potential for improved sleep and overall well-being is significant.

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