Sleep disorders, like sleep apnea and insomnia, affect 40 per cent of Canadians, according  to new figures from a Laval University study published in this month’s issue of  the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry.

Through a survey of 2,000 people across Canada, researchers found 40 per cent  of respondents experienced symptoms of insomnia at least three times a week.  Symptoms include taking longer than 30 minutes to fall asleep, being awake  during the night for more than 30 minutes, or waking up at least 30 minutes  earlier than planned.

Although 20 per cent of respondents said they were unsatisfied with the  quality of their sleep, only 13 per cent of survey respondents say they visited  a doctor or health-care professional about the problem.

“It’s surprising to see that so many people experience insomnia symptoms, but  relatively few of them are actually doing something about it, like seeking  professional help,” said lead author Charles Morin, a psychiatry professor at  Laval University in Quebec.

The study’s results found a combined 21 per cent of respondents used natural  products, over-the-counter drugs or alcohol in an attempt to self-diagnose and  treat their symptoms.

“Most people don’t do anything about it. That’s the worst part of it,” said  Morin. “Other people try to self-treat and it’s not exactly clear why they’re  doing that.” Morin said the high rate of insomniacs self-medicating is worrisome, as many  of the products they use are not regulated by Health Canada.

Stress and anxiety are the main psychological factors that contribute to  insomnia, said Morin. Women during menopause are also at a greater risk of  developing insomnia as well as people with a family history of insomnia, he  said.

The researchers were not only interested in looking at insomnia rates but  also looked at the impact it has on quality of life, factors such as work  productivity and absenteeism.

Thirteen per cent of respondents met the criteria for an insomnia diagnosis,  meaning they not only have nighttime symptoms but also daytime symptoms such as  fatigue, low energy and concentration problems during the day that often affects  the ability to work.

If left untreated, severe chronic insomnia can lead to the development of  mood disorders like depression, said Morin. Morin recommended people visit a doctor or seek therapy from a psychologist  if they suspect they may be suffering from a chronic sleep disorder.

The researchers will be presenting their results to about 1,200 sleep experts  at the World Congress on Sleep Medicine to be held Sept. 10 to 14 in Quebec  City.

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