Jul 10, 2014

    Insomnia? Change your stress response


    IN A first-of-its-kind study, researchers at the American Academy of Sleep Medicine have explored the path that leads to short-term insomnia disorder after stressful events.

    According to the study, dangerous coping mechanisms that could lead to insomnia include disengaging without confronting the stressor, turning to drugs and alcohol, and using media as a means of distraction.

    "Our study is among the first to show that it's not the number of stressors, but your reaction to them that determines the likelihood of experiencing insomnia," said lead author Vivek Pillai, research fellow at the Sleep Disorders & Research Center at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan.

    "While a stressful event can lead to a bad night of sleep, it's what you do in response to stress that can be the difference between a few bad nights and chronic insomnia."

    Nearly 3,000 subjects with no history of insomnia were interviewed about their coping mechanisms and asked to communicate their perception of the stressful situations in their lives.

    One year later, those with short-term insomnia disorder were identified as having reactions to stress as mentioned above. Researchers were also able to identify potential solutions to help ward off insomnia during hard times.

    "Though we may not be able to control external events, we can reduce their burden by staying away from certain maladaptive behaviour," said Dr Pillai.

    According to researchers, mindfulness-based therapies seem to help suppress the "mental chatter" that inhibits the onset of sleep.

    "If you are feeling overwhelmed by events in your life, talk to your doctor about strategies to reduce your stress level and improve your sleep," said Timothy Morgenthaler, president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.