It used to be that the only predictable thing about my insomnia was that it occurred at times of high drama. Anticipation of a trip to the Canary Islands? Nothing like a little excitement to keep me awake at night. Difficulties with a colleague at work? Stress, too, was a set-up for trouble sleeping. Whenever my life got the least bit interesting or challenging, sleep went south.
But sleep is easier to manage now that I’m able to see more patterns in my insomnia and the insomnia of others.
Is there a stigma attached to insomnia? Is it regarded in the same way as psychiatric disorders were regarded in the past–and are seen by some yet today–as something to keep quiet about for fear of others making negative assumptions about your habits and soundness of mind?
I revisited this issue over the weekend as I was responding to questions from Dr. Laura L. Mays Hoopes, a biologist and writer who has read my book and is interviewing me for her blog.
Statistics show that the incidence of insomnia increases with age.
Yet new research suggests it is more common among Americans aged 20-39 years than is generally believed. In a study released in July by the Harvard School of Public Health, 42 percent of the nearly 2,400 young adults surveyed reported having insomnia.
Lots of factors can push you in the direction of persistent insomnia: chronic stress, rumination and worry, and too much time in bed, to name a few.
Another factor that increases your susceptibility to insomnia is physiologic “hyperarousal,” sleep experts say.
Sleep scientists are still trying to figure out why 10 to 15 percent of us have trouble sleeping at night. Normal sleepers are in the majority; people with insomnia are the deviants.
But is insomnia really so odd in view of all the crimes and disasters that have occurred at night?