How Did You Sleep? America’s Growing Problem With Getting Some Shut-Eye

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke reports, “At least 40 million Americans each year suffer from chronic, long-term sleep disorders each year, and an additional 20 million experience occasional sleeping problems. These disorders and the resulting sleep deprivation interfere with work, driving, and social activities.

Sleep disorders also account for an estimated $16 billion in medical costs each year, while the indirect costs due to lost productivity and other factors are probably much greater.” The same organization notes the most common sleep disorders are insomnia, sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, and narcolepsy.

Insomnia

“Insomnia is difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, even when a person has the chance to do so,” according to the National Sleep Foundation. “People with insomnia can feel dissatisfied with their sleep and usually experience one or more of the following: fatigue, low energy, difficulty concentrating, mood disturbances, and decreased performance in work or at school.” Symptoms of insomnia include: difficulty falling or staying asleep, experiencing non-restorative sleep, fatigue, and mood disturbance. Insomnia can be caused by psychological or medical problems. Treatments for insomnia range from prescription medications to non-medical ones such as relaxation training.

Sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts,” asserts the Mayo Clinic. “You may have sleep apnea if you snore loudly and you feel tired even after a full night’s sleep.” There are two types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea (more common) and central sleep apnea. Some of the symptoms of sleep apnea include: hypersomnia, snoring, waking up abruptly, difficulty staying asleep, and morning headaches. Unlike insomnia, which can sometimes be treated without a doctor’s assistance, sleep apnea requires a medical professional’s opinion.

Restless Leg Syndrome

According to HelpGuide.org, “If you’re bothered by an overwhelming urge to move your legs when you lie down, or if there is an unpleasant tingling, aching, or itching sensations in your legs keeping you up at night, you may have a sleep disorder known as restless legs syndrome (RLS).” Experts believe RLS is caused by imbalanced dopamine levels. Also, RLS is a genetic disorder with nearly 60 percent of RLS sufferers having family members who also struggle with it. You could be experiencing RLS if you feel: leg discomfort leading to urges to move them and nighttime leg twitching. For those with RLS, at-home, self-help remedies are encouraged. Everything from leg stretches to cutting back on caffeine can help alleviate this issue.

Narcolepsy

The Narcolepsy Network defines narcolepsy  as, “a sleep disorder, involving irregular patterns in Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep and significant disruptions of the normal sleep/wake cycle.” The organization reports one in 2,000 people in the United States suffers from narcolepsy, and research now indicates that genetic and environmental factors that influence the immune system cause the sleep disorder. Those suffering from narcolepsy  may experience symptoms like excessive daytime sleepiness, cataplexy, sleep paralysis, hypnogogic hallucinations, disrupted nighttime sleep, and memory lapses.

Other effects of sleeplessness

Insomnia, sleep apnea, RLS, and narcolepsy are just a few of the sleep disorders currently affecting people. The Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School asserts, “In the short term, a lack of adequate sleep can affect judgment, mood, ability to learn and retain information, and may increase the risk of serious accidents and injury. In the long term, chronic sleep deprivation may lead to a host of health problems including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even early mortality.” Speak with a specialist about your issues before you begin to experience negative long-term effects of sleeplessness.