Risk factors for insomnia

Some of the risk factors that influence insomnia including food and sleep apnoea.

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Risk Factors Influencing Insomnia
Any of the causes of sleep disorders already learnt may be used as risk factors, for example drugs.
Sleep Apnoea
This simply means: stopping breathing while you are asleep.
Apnoea has long been assumed a cause of insomnia (although it is a sleep disorder in its own right).
Pauses in breathing may last anything from a few seconds to several minutes and can occur 5 ­ 30
times an hour so has a major disruptive effect on sleep.
During a bout of apnoea carbon dioxide builds up in the bloodstream to a point were it cause the
sufferer to wake up gasping for air.
Once the carbon dioxide is removed from the lungs and enough oxygen is taken in, normal sleep
usually occurs but soon after the apnoea returns, causing very disturbed sleep patterns leading to
Causes of sleep apnoea
One major cause of sleep apnoea is obesity:
· Narrowing of the airways makes it difficult for air to pass through properly
· However, it can also occur in the elderly as Brain mechanisms for respiration cease to
function properly during sleep
· A number of studies have suggested that certain personality characteristics are associated
with primary insomnia.
· Kales et al found that people who internalise stress and conflict rather than express
emotions are more at risk of insomnia
· However, Kales study was flawed in that there was no control group and a small biased
sample so they conducted another later study with a more representative sample, which
found very similar results to the original study (suggesting factors such as obsessiveness,
inhibition of anger and negative self image).
· Kales et al proposed that people with internalising tendencies are in a constant state of
emotional and thus physical arousal (e.g increased heart rate and temperature). This
means that they have trouble getting to and staying asleep
· A recent study by Lichstein et al (2007) asked a random sample of participants to keep a
2-week sleep diary and a record of all the nutritional supplements they were using. They
· Those using vitamin supplements had poorer sleep and reported more insomnia
than those who didn't.
· There are several possible reasons for this finding including:
· Vitamins disturb sleep
· Aetiology fallacy: do poor sleepers take vitamins or do vitamins cause poor sleep?
· Other unidentified factors which cause both e.g. personality
· However, it does suggest that dietary intake could be the source of some sleeping
· Caffeine:
· One obvious culprit in insomnia is caffeine
· Brezinova compared the effects of pre-sleep decaffeinated coffee
with coffee with added caffeine. Even though the participants were
unaware of which coffee they were given they found:
· Those with the caffeine experienced in average 2 hours less sleep,
took 66 minutes longer to fall asleep and sleep was more broken.


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