It is estimated that approximately 40 million Americans suffer from chronic, long-term sleep disorders. Additionally, 20 to 30 million Americans suffer from some kind of sleep disorder on an intermittent basis.
A sleep disorder is a disturbance of sleep and wakefulness caused by abnormalities that occur during sleep or by abnormalities of specific sleep mechanisms. Poor sleep can lower your quality of life and lead to serious repercussions for your health. Not getting adequate sleep leads to a higher risk of heart problems, diabetes, poor concentration, obesity, depression, and complications of your immune and nervous systems.
The long term health consequences of untreated sleep disorders may be severe and even life threatening. Sleep disorders may be the primary cause for other illnesses such as cardiac disease, stroke, depression, and/or sexual dysfunction. Sleep disorders have been documented to be directly linked to heart attacks, irregular heart rate, and irregular heart rhythms.
Accurate diagnosis requires a clinical evaluation, and sleep specialists are trained to identify and treat sleep disorders. In some cases a sleep study, known as a polysomnogram, may be needed in order to further evaluate and diagnose the problem.
The National Sleep Foundation's recommendations for sleep-duration numbers were developed after an extensive review of past scientific literature and input from a variety of medical professionals. They are as follows:
Birth to 3 months of age: 14 to 17 hours
4 to 11 months of age: 12 to 15 hours
1 to 2 years of age: 11 to 14 hours
3 to 5 years of age: 10 to 13 hours
6 to 13 years of age: 9 to 11 hours
14 to 17 years of age: 8 to 10 hours
18 to 25 years of age: 7 to 9 hours
26 to 64 years of age: 7 to 9 hours
65 and older: 7 to 8 hours
The most common cause of sleepiness is sleep deprivation, a very common problem we encounter in our busy society, and it is especially prevalent in young adults. Sleep loss is one of the major causes of work and motor vehicle accidents, and it increases the risk of death from those accidents.
Sleep deprivation causes the brain to become exhausted and diminishes our short-term and long-term memory. It impairs judgment and increases the chance of making mistakes. Sleep loss limits our learning ability and decreases creativity.
Falls are a common and costly problem in elderly people (65 and older), whether in the community or in long-term care facilities. Insomnia can increase the risk of falling.
Sleep deprivation decreases the immune response and increases the risk of infections and other illnesses.
Sleep deprivation increases cortisol levels, lowers the satiety hormone leptin, and increases ghrelin which is an appetite stimulant. This results in increased appetite and weight gain. Sleep deprivation also decreases insulin sensitivity and increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Sleep is a time of rest for the entire body. Even the heart, which works day and night, naturally slows during sleep. That is why inadequate sleep quantity or quality can lead to increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
Additionally, according to researchers, individuals sleeping 5 hours or less, or 10 hours or more, were absent from work every year for 4.6 to 8.9 days more, compared to those with the optimal sleep length (7-8 hours).