Is it difficult for you to fall asleep or stay asleep through the night? Do you wake up feeling tired? Do you feel sleepy during the day, even if you think you’ve had enough sleep? You might have a sleep disorder.
There are many treatments for sleep disorders and ways to make sure you are getting enough healthy sleep.
A variety of conditions plague the sleep of Americans. These sleep disorders include:
- sleep deficiency (irregular sleep schedules that result in not getting enough sleep)
- sleep apnea (a condition that causes pauses in breathing, shallow breaths, and occasionally snoring during sleep)
- insomnia (trouble falling or staying asleep)
- restless legs syndrome (also called Willis-Ekbom disease)
- narcolepsy (vivid dreams, daytime sleepiness, brief periods of deep sleep, sleep paralysis, muscle weakness)
- parasomnias (abnormal sleep behaviors).
Add to that list the demands of daily life that require many people to cut short the hours they spend sleeping each night, and the sleep problem becomes even greater, according to Michael J. Twery, PhD, director of the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research in NIH’s National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).
The challenge with sleep disorders is that unlike many other medical conditions, your healthcare provider depends on you to explain the problem, which occurs in the privacy of your bedroom while you are sleeping. There is no pain associated with sleep disorders. Instead, people often have daytime symptoms, such as a morning headache or daytime sleepiness. There is no blood test to help diagnose a sleep disorder. Instead, successful diagnosis depends on the patient. It is important to discuss your symptoms with your physician so he or she can help you determine if you have sleep apnea or another sleep disorder.
“As many as 30 percent or more of U.S. adults are not getting enough sleep,” says Dr. Twery. Chronic sleep loss and sleep disorders are estimated to cost the nation as much as $16 billion in healthcare expenses and $50 billion in lost productivity.
The consequences can be severe. Drowsy driving, for example, is responsible for an estimated 1,500 fatalities and 40,000 nonfatal injuries each year.
“It’s actually quite serious,” says Daniel Chapman, PhD, MSc, at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “Drowsy driving was implicated in about 16 percent of fatal crashes and about 13 percent of crashes resulting in hospitalization.”
Dr. Chapman says sleep is as important to health as eating right and getting enough physical activity. And research has been finding that lack of sleep—like poor diet and lack of physical activity—has been associated with weight gain and diabetes.
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