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Sleep disorders cripple millions of Americans

Experts suggest sleep disorders and chronic sleep loss can put you at risk for heart disease, heart attack, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes. While working with disability applicants I can also attest to the fact that I never talked to someone who had severe depression that did not have sleep deprivation. According to some estimates, 90% of people with insomnia -- a sleep disorder characterized by trouble falling and staying asleep -- also have another health condition.

Sleep disorders among the most common treatable health problems

So how many Americans chronically suffer from a disorder of sleep and wakefulness, hindering daily functioning and adversely affecting health and longevity? Experts claim the number could be as high as 70 million, although many individuals never discuss the condition with their doctor or get a diagnosis. This fact can be especially troubling when the consequences can become a public health concern.

Sleep loss and sleep-related disorders can be dangerous. Although the consequences of sleep disorders may not result in catastrophic loss or death, there is a health toll for many individuals who can experience decreased mortality, increased accidents and injuries, lower functioning and quality of life, less family well-being, and other serious negative health consequences.

Experts note that some consequences, such as falling asleep while driving and causing an accident, may be easily linked to sleep disorders, other issues such as high blood pressure, depression and obesity are not so easily linked. In fact, many individuals may not even realize the two are connected, especially since many health conditions develop over months or years.

How do I know if I am getting enough sleep?

Experts suggest most grown adults should be getting at least seven to eight hours of sleep per night. Adults who lack sufficient sleep will generally exhibit excessive daytime sleepiness, but other symptoms such as a depressed mood and poor memory or concentration can also occur. Interestingly, studies suggest that the amount of adults who do not get sufficient sleep has increased over the last 20 years. For instance, more than 35 years ago, most adults reported sleeping 7.7 hours per night.

There have also been increased concerns for adolescents, many of whom now report receiving insufficient sleep. Experts suggest the optimal sleep duration for adolescents, about 9 hours per night.

Sleep disorders- do I have one?

So how do you know if you have one of the 90 distinct sleep disorders? Most conditions have distinct symptoms such as “excessive daytime sleepiness, difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep, or abnormal movements, behaviors, and sensations occurring during sleep.” Some of the most common sleep disorders include “sleep-disordered breathing, insomnia, narcolepsy, restless legs syndrome (RLS), parasomnias, sleep-related psychiatric disorders, sleep-related neurological disorders, sleep-related medical disorders, and circadian rhythm sleep disorders.”

I am not sleeping, what next?

Sleep loss can be due to one’s lifestyle, occupational factors or from a serious health condition. The best way to know if you have a sleep disorder or if you need to simply modify your lifestyle is to seek medical assistance.
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