According to National Geographic men with chronic insomnia have a higher risk of early death than "normal" male sleepers who get more than six hours sleep
After decades of mixed findings, the new report shows that insomnia is a "serious disease with significant physical consequences, including mortality," said study leader Alexandros N. Vgontzas, director of Penn State University's Sleep Research & Treatment Center in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
Study leader Vgontzas and colleagues randomly selected 741 Pennsylvania men between 20 and 100, with an average age of 50, to participate in the initial phase of the study, between 1990 and 1995.
First, the volunteers identified themselves as either insomniacs or non-insomniacs. Then they spent a night in a sleep lab, where scientists confirmed how long the subjects slept.
By combining the subjects' self reports and the lab data, the team determined that 6 percent of the men had chronic insomnia.
Between 1994 and 1997, the sleep researchers studied a thousand women with a similar age range to the men. The team found that 9 percent of the women had chronic insomnia.
By the time the scientists checked in on the subjects in 2007—14 years later for the men, 10 for the women—51.1 percent of the male chronic insomniacs who slept fewer than six hours a night had died, versus 9.1 percent of the normal male sleepers.
The findings suggest that chronic male insomniacs are four times more likely to die early—even after taking into account risk factors such as smoking, obesity, and sleep apnoea,
There was no such link between insomnia and premature death in women—insomniacs and healthy sleepers both had a mortality rate of just over 2 percent during the study period.
Causes of insomnia are still poorly understood—it may be that some people are just "born poor sleepers," Vgontzas said. But even more mysterious is how to treat the condition.
For instance, insomnia medications are mostly geared toward combating occasional sleeplessness, and psychological interventions such as cognitive behavioural therapy don't seem to work for severe insomniacs, he said.
Oh bugger now I’ve got another reason to be awake into the wee small hours!