WESTCHESTER, Ill.Insomnia produces side-effects that can negatively impact people of all ages, including physical illness, depression and anxiety. However, a study published in the November 1 issue of the journal SLEEP finds that there are also differences in the way insomnia affects younger and older people.

The study, conducted by Robert Stewart, MD, of King’s College London, UK, focused on the responses of 8,580 people aged 16 to 74 years to a cross-sectional national mental health survey. Of the 3,380 respondents (37 percent of those surveyed) with insomnia symptoms, 12 percent had moderate to severe symptoms, 13 percent reported insomnia with fatigue, and five percent had primary or secondary insomnia.

“The associations between insomnia and separated, divorced or widowed marital status were strongest in younger age groups,” said Stewart. “On the other hand, longer bouts with insomnia were more common in the older population, who are also more likely to be taking types of sedatives that have particular problems with addiction and side-effects.”

These findings come from a large, representative survey of people in England, Scotland and Wales carried out by the Office for National Statistics, London, added Stewart.

Insomnia, a classification of sleep disorders defined by difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, waking up too early, or poor quality sleep, is the most common sleep complaint at any age. It affects almost half of adults 60 years of age and older.

Older adults need about the same amount of sleep as younger adults — seven to nine hours of sleep per night.

Besides depression and anxiety, research shows that sleep loss is linked to serious health problems such as cardiovascular disease, obesity and diabetes.

Those suspecting they might have insomnia or another sleep disorder are encouraged to make an appointment with a specialist at a sleep facility accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM).

SLEEP is the official journal of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, LLC, a joint venture of the AASM and the Sleep Research Society.

SleepEducation.org, a website maintained by the AASM, provides information about the various sleep disorders that exist, the forms of treatment available, recent news on the topic of sleep, sleep studies that have been conducted and a listing of sleep facilities.

To arrange an interview with an AASM spokesperson regarding this study, please contact Jim Arcuri, public relations coordinator, at (708) 492-0930, ext. 9317, or jarcuri@aasm.org.