Insomniacs suffer from increased blood levels of stress hormones, thereby there is continous activation of body's system fro responding to stress. Hence, the researchers suggest, doctors who treat insomnia should go beyond improving the quality or quantity of their patients' sleep and seek to reduce this hyperarousal, which is a risk factor for both psychiatric and medical illness.
Dr. Alexandros, of Ohio State University College of Medicine, and his associates monitored the sleep of 11 patients with insomnia and 13 people without sleep disturbances-contol group. Blood was collected every 30 minutes for 24 hours, and levels of stress hormones -adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and cortisol were monitored.
The researchers found that due to the hormonal changes, especially cortisol particularly during evening and night time, insomniacs have the highest degree of sleep. Dr. Alexandros and colleagues propose that the physical mechanism of chronic insomnia differs from that of sleep loss, with chronic insomnia being a disorder of hyperarousal present throughout the 24-hour sleep/wake cycle.They suggest that increased production of stress hormones is likely to lead not only to depression, but also to high blood pressure, obesity and the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis.
He feels that doctors should now refocus their therapeutic goals and now work to decrease the levels of physiologic arousal in insomniacs, instead of aiming to improve nighttime sleep . According to researchers antidepressants should be recommended to insomniac patients which will decrease the activity of the strees system, instead of hypnotic drugs.
SOURCE: Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism