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Binge drinking linked to insomnia in seniors

Friday June 14, 2013
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Frequent binge drinking is associated with insomnia symptoms in older adults, according to a study.

Among study participants, 26.2% averaged two or fewer binge-drinking days per week and 3.1% averaged more than two such days per week. After adjustment for demographic variables, medical conditions and elevated depressive symptoms, participants who binged on an average of more than two days a week had 84% greater odds of reporting an insomnia symptom when compared with non-binge drinkers.

"It was somewhat surprising that frequent binge drinking, but not occasional binge drinking (more than zero, but less than two, binge-drinking days per week, on average) had a significant association with self-reported insomnia symptoms," lead author Sarah Canham, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in drug dependence epidemiology at John Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, said in a news release.

The study, presented this month at the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, involved 4,970 community-dwelling adults ages 55 and older from the 2004 cohort of the Health and Retirement Study who reported having ever consumed alcohol, and who had completed all binge-drinking and insomnia-related questions.

Participants reported the number of days during the previous three months when they had four or more drinks on one occasion. Responses were used to calculate the average number of binge-drinking days per week, which was the primary predictor. Participants also reported the frequency of difficulty falling asleep, trouble staying asleep, waking too early or feeling unrested in the morning. Those reporting any of these "most of the time" were considered to have an insomnia symptom.

The authors said to their knowledge the study is the first that examines binge drinking and its association with insomnia symptoms in older adults. "Clinicians and healthcare providers should be aware of and discuss the use of alcohol with their older patients, particularly those who report poor sleep," Canham said. "Binge-drinking behaviors may be an appropriate target for improving poor sleep."


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