Insomnia Trends

Did you know that about 30% of adults suffer from insomnia? Considering we ideally spend about a third of our life sleeping (or trying to), that’s an awful lot of time to spend battling this beast. Whether it’s difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, more people than ever are not getting the quality and quantity of sleep they need in order to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

When did we lose our knack for sleeping? Here’s what recent studies have revealed about the trends in insomnia in the past 20 years:

Prevalence of insomnia has increased slightly

In the UK, prevalence of insomnia increased from 35.0% in 1993 to 38.6% in 2007 (source). However, the factors correlated with insomnia remained consistent during the 15 year period (i.e. with insomnia being more prevalent amongst women, those of older age, and those suffering from depression). In other words: insomnia has been gradually on the rise, but amongst the same demographic over time.

A similar study in Finland mirrors this finding: from 1995-2005 they observed a slight increase in insomnia amongst the working age population (source). 

Sydney coffee shop
(Photo source)

The use of sleeping tablets to treat insomnia has increased dramatically

A study by Medco Health Solutions revealed that from 2000-2004, use of sleeping tablets doubled amongst adults and increased by 85% in children and young adults in the US (source).

Another study had even more dramatic findings, citing that from 1994-2007, prescriptions for Nonbenzodiazepine Sedative Hypnotics (e.g. Ambien, Lunesta, Sonata) saw a 30-fold increase (540,000 to 16.2 million) in the US (source). Given that there are around almost 9 million Americans using sleeping tablets (source), this indicates that people are being prescribed multiple different kinds of sleeping medications to handle their insomnia.

insomnia trends
(Photo source)

The Bottom Line

More and more people are using sleeping tablets to deal with insomnia, though the prevalence of insomnia itself has not increased anywhere near as fast in recent years. That begs the question: Are sleeping tablets effective?

Tips For Sleeping On A Plane

Heading off to some far-off land on a long haul flight? Don’t sacrifice a good night’s sleep just because you won’t be horizontal.

Here are our best tips for how to sleep on a plane:

Choose a good seat

Be sure to select your seat as soon as possible. Some airlines let you choose your seat upon booking, while others open up seat selection once online check-in begins. Either way, pick your seat as soon as you can.

Now, which seats are best for sleeping on a plane? Assuming you’re flying economy class, your best bet is a seat in the emergency exit row: that way you’ll be able to stretch out your legs and won’t be disturbed by your seatmates moving in and out of their seats. Otherwise, try for a window seat: you’re less likely to be bothered, and you’ll be oh-so-thankful for being able to lean on the side of the plane for a little extra sleep room. Whatever you do, avoid booking seats that can’t recline (e.g. the last row of the plane)!

Bonus tip: Check out SeatGuru.com to examine the seating chart for your flight. It has notes marking which seats are more/less desirable, so you can see which seats are the best for sleeping on the plane!

seatguru plane seating map

Don’t drink

Thinking about knocking yourself out with a glass of wine on the flight? Think again – you may be regretting that decision when you wake up a few hours later needing to use the toilet. You’ll also feel the effects of dehydration more quickly while in a pressurized cabin, and that certainly won’t help you sleep. What’s more dehydration is one of the main causes of jetlag, so it won’t help you at the other end either.

Invest in some sleep accessories

Let’s face it: you’re not going to get the most comfortable night’s sleep on a plane. But you can make it much more bearable by bringing a few sleep aids on the flight with you:

  • Eye mask or baseball cap – If you have trouble falling asleep without total darkness, then covering your eyes on a plane is an absolute must! A comfortable eye mask should do the trick. Or alternatively, try wearing a baseball cap with the brim pulled all the way down over your eyes.
  • Earplugs or ear buds – It’s easy to be jarred awake by sudden noises in the cabin, from conversations to passenger movement to the overhead compartments slamming shut. If you’re a light sleeper, block out the noise with some earplugs. Or if you’re the kind of person who sleeps well with music on, pop in those ear buds and turn a sleep-friendly playlist on repeat. We recommend theta or delta brainwave music.
  • Neck pillow – These things may look borderline ridiculous, but they work some serious magic when it comes to falling asleep on a plane. They provide much-needed neck support so that you’re not suddenly jolted awake when your neck cramps up from being bent at an odd angle. Try wearing the neck pillow backwards so that your chin is supported from the front. And if bulkiness is a concern, look for an inflatable neck pillow that folds up small when packed in your carry-on bag.

sleep on a plane
(Photo source)

Dress for comfort

Rather than dressing to impress, board the plane wearing what you’d normally wear to bed (presuming you wear something to bed!). Comfortable loose bottoms and wooly socks. Make sure you have a blanket or shawl to wrap yourself up in. It gives us a nice feeling of being nurtured, which always helps with falling asleep.

Practice brainwave flexibility

Once you have learned how to increase your brainwave flexibility, it becomes much easier to sleep on a plane, because it is much easier for you to access the slow brainwave states at will. The noises won’t bother you as much, you will be able to relax more easily, and you may even begin to enjoy the challenge of getting a good night’s sleep on a plane. For tips on increasing your brainwave flexibility before your overnight flight, be sure to check out our post on brainwaves!

Do Morning People Have More Effective Workouts?

It’s a fairly widespread belief that working out first thing in the morning is best, but is there any truth in this claim? Assuming that morning people prefer to work out in the morning while night people tend to work out later in the day, does this mean that morning people have better workouts than night people?

According to our research, no – your sleep schedule does not determine the quality of your workouts, particularly for professional athletes who train hard.

sleep and fitness
(Photo source)

Morning vs Nighttime Workouts

There are a couple of major drawbacks to early morning workouts. First, your training may be impacted by some level of grogginess if you haven’t given yourself enough time to fully wake up in the morning. This is more likely to occur if you have arisen to an alarm which has woken you during the deep sleep phase of a sleep cycle. And second, a hard workout early in the morning will leave you exhausted for the remainder of the day (source).

Conversely, working out late in the day is also not a good idea: both because you’re too tired from the rest of the day’s activities to perform your best, and because you’ll be too aroused to fall asleep for several hours after the workout (source).

Rowers by Mona Lisa Photography
(Photo source)

What Time of Day is Best?

So then what time of day should you be working out? If history’s any indication, more world records have been set between 17:00-18:00 than any other hour of the day (source).

Alternatively, there is some evidence that one’s biological clock affects athletic performance: i.e. morning people (“larks”) perform better early in the day, while night people (“owls”) perform their best late in the day. A study on MLB players’ performance in 2010 revealed a staggering difference in batting average between larks and owls at different times of day (source):
Early play: Larks, 0.267; Owls 0.259
Mid play: Larks 0.252; Owls 0.261
Night play: Larks 0.252; Owls 0.306

sleep for rugby training
(Photo source)

The Bottom Line

There is no one right time of day to work out: it largely depends on whether you’re a morning person or a night person (or somewhere in between). There is no evidence that morning people have better workouts than night people do.

Work with your circadian rhythm, rather than against it, when scheduling workouts. If you’re an athlete required to perform or compete at certain times of day, consider altering your sleep schedule slightly so that you’re able to perform your best.

Sleeping At Work: Japan’s Got The Right Idea

We live in a culture where it’s perfectly acceptable to be sleep deprived: where it’s normal to roll into work the morning after a late night with bags under our eyes and a jumbo coffee in our hand.

But then we’re expected to stay awake and alert through the entire workday. We’ve got deadlines to meet, projects to complete, meetings to attend; the show must go on, even when we’re exhaustedly dragging ourselves around the office thinking: “If only I could just take a quick nap right now”.

If only. It’s no secret that a 15-20 minute nap noticeably improves alertness (source). What if it were allowed – even encouraged – to take naps in the workplace?

Some companies are starting to embrace this idea: Google, Procter & Gamble, Salesforce, and PWC to name a few have installed sleep pods across their offices.

But one whole nation has long been ahead of the napping game: Japan.

asian sleeping
Source: Wikipedia

Inemuri in Japan

In Japan, they’ve coined a practice called inemuri: meaning “to be asleep while present” (source). It’s common to find employees practicing inemuri while at business meetings, sitting upright with their eyes closed while listening to presentations.

While in other cultures, this would be considered rude or lazy – in Japan, sleeping while on the job is a sign of hard work. It indicates that sleep was sacrificed in favor of a big work day.

The unwritten rules of inemuri require that the person remain upright while dozing off – that way, they can easily engage if called upon in the office. And only those employees higher up in the chain of command, or low-level staff, can typically get away with sleeping at work.

Regardless, sleep is seen as a positive thing in Japan, particularly sleeping at work. Australians could certainly stand to learn from the Japanese, who truly understand the power of the nap!

Brainwaves and Sleep: What’s the Connection?

Do you live a fast paced life, enjoy relatively good health, but can’t fall asleep at night? Have you been to see the doctor about your insomnia, and all they have suggested is to meditate, relax or take a sleeping tablet? Do you feel like there must be another solution, but you just haven’t found it? Read on, because there is one.

brainwaves and sleep
Photo credit: Clinic of Dynamic Medicine

Our fast-paced lives have reduced our brainwave flexibility

We are all very busy in today’s society – constantly getting things done, achieving and “doing.” Not just that, we are doing things quickly. Everything has a quick turn around time. We are expected to deliver results quickly, respond to messages straight away, and squeeze so much into our day. We are also working longer days, and concentrating for more of the day, every day. So what impact does this have on us and what does it have to do with sleep? This fast pace of life, as well as the pressure in our lives, has resulted in a reduction in our brainwave flexibility.

Simply put: during the day when we concentrate, we are in a beta brainwave state. When we relax we go into the slower alpha brainwave state. When we are deeply relaxed (almost asleep) we go into theta. If the brain cannot transition between these states easily, we lose our ability to be able to shift gears, slow down our brainwaves, and enter the delta brainwave state of sleep.

computer desktop
Image credit: Technology Tell

We need to learn to switch off and ‘close down the tabs’ in our mind like a computer

Brainwave flexibilty is critical to be able to get to sleep. Not only are we working longer and harder, we’re spending more time ‘doing’, concentrating and flitting between tasks (checking Facebook, typing on our laptops in our spare time etc) which means we are in a beta brainwave state for a much longer period of time than we used to be, but we are also relaxing less. As a result we now spend much less time in the slower more relaxed brainwave states that help to maintain our brainwave flexibility. Are you familiar with that ‘notification brain’ feeling when you’re always primed for the next update or message? Do you ever feel like your brain has too many tabs open like a computer? Just like a computer, our brains need to be cleared out and reset regularly.

Stressful periods can act like trauma to the brain

Given most of us today are already predisposed to this, all we need is to be exposed to a short intense period of stress, or a trauma e.g. a relationship breakup, or a difficult manager at work, and our already fragile brain then acts as if it has suffered an injury. It just doesn’t remember how to move easily through the brainwave states to get into the natural sleep brainwave state. The brain’s ability to shift between the brainwave states atrophies – like a muscle that is not used. If it then experiences a period of intense stress or trauma, this impact is intensified, and significant sleep challenges can result.

fall asleep

Is it just about relaxing and meditating?

Unfortunately, no. The main reason meditating and relaxing can help with improving sleep is because it can get us into a slower brainwave state. But here’s the thing: for people who have lost their brainwave flexibility, it is extremely difficult to get into the slower brainwave state required for meditation or other forms of relaxation to be helpful. This is why meditation simply isn’t effective for so many people – if they’re unable to switch off their racing mind, it will prevent them from being able to meditate and relax.

But there is hope! Working with a skilled practitioner to restore your brainwave flexibility will re-establish your ability to effectively begin meditating or relaxing on your own.

You can retrain your brain to relax and sleep easily

At My Sleep Coach we use special methods to retrain your brain to once again easily move through these brainwave states, so that you can restore your natural ability to sleep easily and deeply.
Sign up for a free sleep strategy session with us and take the first step toward curing insomnia and learning how to fall asleep faster!

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