The importance of sleep should not be underestimated. Sleep aids in building muscle and is crucial for fighting off physical infection and illness. It is also essential for maintaining psychological well-being. People who have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep often feel physically exhausted during the day. Their ability to focus and regulate their emotions can become compromised. Insomnia is a common symptom of many mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression. Existing research on the effects of insomnia have focused on short-term effects. However, in a recent study led by Cynthia W. Karlson of the Department of Psychology at the University of Kansas, the relationship between insomnia and well-being was looked at over a period of 10 years.
In this study, Karlson evaluated participants who were part of the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS). She assessed levels of insomnia and well-being at the beginning of the study (Time 1) and analyzed how those levels affected insomnia and well-being 10 years later (Time 2). More than 4,000 adults with an average age of 52 participated in the study. Karlson discovered that chronic insomnia was highly predictive of future psychological impairment. Specifically, the participants who had high levels of insomnia at Time 1 were more likely to experience mental health issues, such as low mood, depression, or anxiety at Time 2 than those with little or no insomnia. Karlson also found that the individuals with chronic insomnia at Time 1 were more likely to experience persistence in their symptoms of insomnia over the 10-year period than those with occasional or minimal insomnia. Karlson said, “Recurring insomnia symptoms appear to negatively impact many dimensions of wellbeing, perhaps most significantly an individual’s mood, sense of environmental mastery, and self-acceptance.” She believes future research into insomnia trajectories could help clinicians identify those most at risk for subsequent psychological problems.
Karlson, C. W., Gallagher, M. W., Olson, C. A., Hamilton, N. A. (2012). Insomnia symptoms and well-being: Longitudinal follow-up. Health Psychology. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0028186
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