It’s something everyone does every night and yet we don’t totally get it—sleep. Sure, we know we should sleep a certain amount every day but it’s something many seem to avoid. When was the last time you slept a solid 8 hours? Many are lucky to meet the National Sleep Foundation’s minimum recommended time of 7 hours. According to the 2013 Gallup poll, Americans were getting an average of only 6.8 hours of sleep. That’s a full hour less than what was reported back in the 1940s. More recently, in February 2016, the CDC reported that more than ⅓ of American adults are not regularly getting enough shut-eye.
Many people in modern day society are sleep deprived. But what happens when we don’t get enough sleep? Our body and mind go through a whole host of consequences when running short on sleep. The most obvious ones that you may have noticed after a bad night of sleep is that we are groggy and sluggish, maybe it’s a little bit harder to focus, we reach for caffeine to keep us going but we tend to be unmotivated and might even skip out on gym time. You’re likely to be more forgetful, emotional, in severe cases delirium and hallucinations may be present, and your brain might even be shrinking! Poor sleep contributes to feelings of hunger which may cause someone to eat more which could lead to weight gain. It’s also associated with increased heart rate, blood pressure, aging skin, trouble conceiving, diabetes and other organ issues. Getting a good night’s rest is essential to a properly functioning body and mind.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke reported, “about 40 million people in the United States suffer from chronic long-term sleep disorders each year and an additional 20 million people experience occasional sleep problems.” There are over 70 different sleep disorders someone could suffer from. Let’s look at a few of the more common ones:
Sleep apnea is a disorder when a person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep. The most common type is Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) that affects an estimated 22 million Americans. It’s often characterized by really loud snoring and gasping or choking sounds. OSA is commonly treated with a CPAP machine, lifestyle changes, and surgery. There are new devices coming out onto the market as technology advances.
Insomnia is when a person is unable to fall asleep, stay asleep, or wake up too early and is unable to fall back asleep. Roughly 60 million people suffer from insomnia. Women and those over 65 are disproportionately likely to suffer from this disorder. Many people have experienced acute insomnia at some point in their lives but those who suffer from chronic insomnia experience it at least three times a week for at least three months. Treatments often include CBT-I, medication, and alternative techniques like yoga.
Narcolepsy is a “sleep disorder characterized by excessive sleepiness, sleep paralysis, hallucinations, and in some cases episodes of cataplexy (partial or total loss of muscle control, often triggered by a strong emotion such as laughter).” Unfortunately, there is no cure currently but medications and behavioral treatments are implemented to improve symptoms.
Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)is a nervous system disorder that causes a need to move the legs (or another body part) and is often disruptive to sleep. The feeling may be described as ‘itchy’, ‘creepy crawly’, or ‘pins and needles’. Treatment for RLS includes lifestyle changes to manage symptoms and a special leg wrap.
Bruxism is when a person clenches or grinds teeth during sleep. About 8% of adults grind their teeth at night and ⅓ of parents report their children having it. Chronic bruxism could cause dental damage, muscle pain, and disturbed sleep. It may have a variety of causes like stress, smoking, caffeine, or from another sleep disorder like sleep apnea. Often sufferers get a mouth guard fitted by their dentist.
Parasomnia is an umbrella term to cover abnormal events while sleeping other than suffering from sleep apnea. This includes nightmares, sleepwalking, night terrors, REM sleep behavior disorder, and many others.
With any potential disorder, it is best to seek consultation with your doctor. Try keeping a sleep diary and jot down notes like your habits or symptoms that are particularly bothering you. If you think you may be suffering from a disorder or would like to learn more, contact us today!