That is something to lose sleep over: How millions of Britons are affected by acute insomnia – but experts say they don't know why
Full extent of problems of acute insomnia revealedExperts hope this will help them find ways to stop it developing into chronic insomniaInitial triggers, however, are still unclear



15:33 GMT, 24 August 2012

Almost one in ten adults in the UK suffer from acute insomnia, research suggests – far more than previously thought.

Scientists hope the insight into the extent problem will help them find new ways stop those sufferers developing even more serious sleep problems.

People are diagnosed as acute insomnia sufferers if they have had problems sleeping for less than three months – chronic insomniacs suffer for longer.

As chronic insomnia leads to an increased risk of developing major depression, scientists are trying to find out how the change from acute to chronic takes place to prevent the disease.

Sleepless nights: One in eight people are thought to suffer from acute insomnia

Sleepless nights: One in eight people are thought to suffer from acute insomnia

Though they admit that they are not sure what exactly causes acute insomnia.

Current treatments include sleeping tablets and cognitive behavioural therapy, but there are not enough experts who are able to do this and waiting lists can be as long as two and a half years.

For the first time, researchers have identified the how common acute insomnia is – with suggestions it affects millions each year – leading to new insights into how it develops and when effective treatment should be given to prevent the onset of chronic insomnia.

The Northumbria University researchers worked with experts in the States, Canada and Glasgow to examine the sleep habits and patterns of normal sleepers and those with acute insomnia.

Results showed the condition is widespread – almost nine per cent of the 3,000 US participants and eight per cent of the 1,000 Brits suffered episodes of acute insomnia during the study.

Also, between 31.2 per cent and 36.6 per cent of the UK sample were likely to develop acute insomnia in a year, and the rate of transition from acute to chronic insomnia was 21.4 per cent – although this is higher if it is not the first episode of insomnia.

Dr Jason Ellis, Director of the Northumbria Centre for Sleep Research, said: 'This study provides the first prevalence and incidence data for acute insomnia.

'The results demonstrate that acute insomnia is highly prevalent and is a first step towards a systematic investigation of its natural history.

'Nobody has done a study like this before so we didn’t really know what to expect, but the results are very high.

'We are trying to find out what causes acute insomnia, but most people believe it is a stressful event that triggers it – such as moving house or losing a job.

'We don’t know how genetics plays a part, as some people are stressed out but can still sleep like a log so that’s the next step of our research.

'The information our research has provided gives us a first indication of the scale and scope of the problem. Our next step will be to explore the factors that can cause or prevent the transition from acute to chronic insomnia.'