According to a new survey commissioned by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), more than half of Americans “always” or “often” exhibit insomnia symptoms by having trouble falling asleep (54%) or staying asleep (53%).
On June 21, the “shortest night of the year,” AASM will hold the 10th annual Insomnia Awareness Night in collaboration with the Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine to drive awareness of chronic insomnia and its treatments.
“Chronic insomnia is more than just the occasional sleepless night; it’s an ongoing problem that impacts overall health and well-being,” says Jennifer Martin, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist and immediate past president of the AASM, in a release. “When you can’t sleep, the situation can feel hopeless, but chronic insomnia is treatable. With Insomnia Awareness Night, we want to help people understand what chronic insomnia is, and how they can get help.”
Symptoms and Impact
Chronic insomnia involves difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or regularly waking up earlier than desired, despite allowing enough time in bed for sleep, with symptoms occurring at least three times per week for at least three months.
Symptoms of chronic insomnia include daytime fatigue or sleepiness; feeling dissatisfied with sleep; having trouble concentrating; feeling depressed, anxious, or irritable; and having low motivation or low energy.
Chronic insomnia can be detrimental to physical, mental, and emotional health, negatively affecting overall wellness and daily functioning. Additionally, chronic insomnia can lead to increased risks for depression, anxiety, substance abuse and motor vehicle accidents, Alzheimer’s disease and type 2 diabetes.
The first-line recommended treatment for chronic insomnia is cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I). CBT-I combines behavioral strategies, such as setting a consistent sleep schedule and getting out of bed when you are struggling to sleep, with cognitive strategies, such as replacing fears about sleeplessness with more helpful expectations. CBT-I recommendations are customized to address each patient’s individual needs and symptoms.
“Cognitive behavioral therapy provides customized strategies for those experiencing chronic insomnia,” says Michael Grandner, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist and president of Society of Behavioral Sleep Medicine, in a release. “Clinicians who are certified in behavioral sleep medicine work with individuals to develop the right treatment plan to fit their life.”
Americans Turning to Melatonin
The 2023 AASM survey found that 64% of people have taken melatonin, with nearly a third of people (29%) using it occasionally or on a regular basis to help them sleep. However, a clinical practice guideline published by the AASM suggests that clinicians should not use melatonin for adults to treat chronic insomnia. Those who suspect they have chronic insomnia should work with a health care professional or licensed clinical psychologist to find the best treatment option before implementing any self-directed treatments for insomnia.
“It’s understandable that those who have chronic insomnia want to try anything to help them sleep, but melatonin is not recommended for this condition. There are other, better treatments, like cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, that can lead to long-term relief,” says Martin in the release.
For the AASM-commissioned survey, 2,005 adults in the US participated between March 24 and 29.