Healthcare Blog

One Person In Four Wakes Every Night Due To Insomnia

July 15, 2017

Nearly a quarter of the population suffers nocturnal awakenings or "middle of the night insomnia", on a daily basis, according to major study.

The survey of nearly 9,000 people also suggests that one person in three wakes in the middle of the night at least three times a week.

Lead investigator Dr Maurice Ohayon of Stanford University's Sleep Epidemiology Research Centre, described the prevalence of night-time awakenings revealed by the research as "incredible".

"In terms of comparing how common it is with other sleep problems, there is no comparison. We need to know why this is happening."

Earlier studies had suggested that nocturnal awakenings more than three times a week affected as little as seven per cent of the population. The new Stanford survey, however, found that 35.5 per cent woke more than three times a week and that overall, 23 per cent of participants awoke on a nightly basis. Women were worst-affected, with 27 per cent waking nightly; for men the figure was 19 per cent.

In addition, the study revealed that those who woke on a nightly basis were more likely to suffer nocturnal awakenings over a period of many years than those who woke in the night less frequently.

The researchers also found that age was a major factor, with over a third (35 per cent) over-64-year-olds reporting seven awakenings a week, versus just 10 per cent in the under-25s.

The reasons given for nocturnal awakenings were: pain, difficulty breathing, needing to use the toilet, needing to attend a child, noise, thirst, hunger, dreams and spontaneous waking.

Of the 35.5 per cent who woke nightly, over a third (13.1 per cent of the total number), had no other diagnosed sleep problems such as difficulty initiating sleep (DIS) or non-restorative sleep (NRS). According to Dr Ohayon, this could mean that these patients are never treated.

Despite the new study's unexpectedly high figure of 35.5 per cent for the number of people waking three or more times a week, Dr Thomas Roth of the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit said the results were in line with those suggested by some clinical trials.

Dr James Walsh, a sleep researcher from St Luke's Hospital in St Louis, agreed that the study provided important insight into how widespread the problem was.

"This is probably the first really good data we have showing the importance of nocturnal awakening in insomnia. It shows a very strong overlap between nocturnal awakening and other sleep problems and suggests that nocturnal awakening is a very under-appreciated aspect of insomnia."

In his own address to the conference, Dr Walsh called on slow-wave sleep-enhancing drugs to be investigated as a treatment for nocturnal awakenings.

Michael Day, sponsored by sanofi-aventis

SLEEP 2008 - Baltimore