Insomnia is pervasive and problematic nationwide, affecting the quality of life for a large number of adults, and electronic devices may be part of the reason, according to a Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center sleep specialist.
Approximately 1 out of 5 adults in the U.S. experience short-term (acute) insomnia and 1 out of 10 endure long-term (chronic) insomnia, with little variation among different population segment, according to American Academy of Sleep Medicine data in a Wake Forest release.
Unlike many conditions, insomnia is also subjective, meaning it is primarily identified by the individual’s experience. One sleep medicine practitioner attributes its prevalence at least partly to technology’s disruption of natural body clock rhythms.
“A lot of it has to do with our electrified society,” Dr. Gray Bullard, a pulmonologist and sleep medicine specialist at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, said in the release. “We live in an era of electrically powered 24-hour activity and that was not the case in most of human history. Our brains have a circadian light-clock that’s the perfect programming for natural sleep, and we’ve drastically manipulated that.”
Bullard added that around-the-clock access to electronic devices exacerbates the problem, delaying sleep or affecting the ability to stay asleep. Acute insomnia may first stem from anxiety or stress, the release said, but when individuals endure subsequent fatigue, drowsiness or impaired performance, they may then worry and experience increased sleeplessness, creating a cycle.
A visit to a primary care doctor tops Bullard’s list of recommendations for people suffering from insomnia, and he notes in the release that family doctors can determine whether specialist referrals are necessary. Bullard advises against using over-the-counter sleep remedies and encourages self-evaluation of sleep habits.