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Sleep is not merely "time out" from daily life. It is an active state, essential for mental and physical restoration. More than 100 million Americans of all ages, however, regularly fail to get a good night's sleep.
Some 84 sleeping disorders result in diminished quality of life and personal health. Public safety is endangered through their contribution to traffic and industrial accidents. These disorders include those leading to problems falling asleep and staying asleep, difficulties staying awake or adhering to a consistent sleep/wake cycle, sleepwalking, bedwetting, nightmares and other problems that interfere with sleep. Some sleep disorders are potentially fatal.
Sleep disorders are diagnosed and treated by a wide variety of healthcare providers, including general practitioners and specialists in neurology, pulmonary medicine, psychiatry, psychology, pediatrics and other fields. The American Sleep Disorders Association (ASDA) was founded in 1987 to increase awareness of sleep disorders among the public and professional communities. The following information was provided by the ASDA. Contact DRMC's Sleep Disorders Lab to learn more.
Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep——commonly termed insomnia——plagues one in three American adults. Insomnia disturbs waking hours as well as sleeping hours, since those with insomnia are likely to feel sleepy during the day and have trouble concentrating on tasks after a poor night's sleep.
Sleep Apnea and Snoring
Although people who snore loudly are the frequent targets of bad jokes and the occasional victims of middle-of-the-night elbow thrusts, snoring is no laughing matter.
Loud snoring can be a signal that something is seriously wrong with breathing during sleep. Snoring is a sign that the airway is not fully open and the distinctive sound of snoring comes from efforts to force air through the narrowed passageway.
Sleep as We Grow Older
Like changes in hair color and vision and other signs of aging, the "graying" of sleep usually develops gradually. Aging makes sleep more fragile, even in healthy older people.
Early in life, most people fall asleep quickly and sleep soundly. As they grow older, they may find settling down to sleep more difficult; they may awaken more often and take longer to fall back to sleep. The honk of a car horn or the bark of a neighbor's dog may be enough to disturb light sleepers. As people mature, they may doze off more easily while watching TV or reading the newspaper.
Persistent trouble with falling asleep at night is not normal at any age, nor is falling asleep frequently during the day.
Coping with Shift Work
More than 22 million Americans work a shift other than a regular day shift and must face the problems of sleeping during the day and being alert on the job at night. Working a schedule different from most of the world can be challenging.
For most people, falling asleep and staying asleep are parts of a natural process. Good sleepers are likely to have developed certain lifestyle and dietary habits that promote sound sleep. Their habits or behaviors——known as sleep hygiene——can have a positive effect on sleep before, during and after time spent in bed. For the most part, sleep hygiene is a matter of common sense.
Sleep in Women
The quality of a woman's sleep is an important component of the quality of her life. For years, very little research was available concerning the sleep problems unique to women, and sleep complaints were not always taken seriously by healthcare providers. Recent studies, however, have paid more attention to the particular patterns, changing needs and special problems associated with sleep throughout a woman's life. Notable among the findings is that women are twice as likely as men to have difficulties falling asleep or staying asleep.