July 07, 2007

Respiratory Disease - Sleep Problems

Why is sleep important?
Sleep is not just resting or taking a break from busy routines -- it is essential to physical and emotional health. Adequate sleep may also play a role in helping the body recover from illness and injury.

But, the emotional and mental benefits of sleep are also significant. Even occasional sleeping problems can make daily life feel more stressful and less productive. And, some people with chronic insomnia are more likely to develop psychiatric problems. In a recent survey, those who said they had trouble getting enough sleep reported impaired ability to perform tasks involving:

logical reasoning
mathematical calculation

Facts about sleep disorders:
Loss of sleep is believed to contribute to strained relationships at home, and unfulfilled potential on the job, and can also be dangerous, leading to serious or even fatal accidents. Consider these facts from the National Sleep Foundation, the National Commission of Sleep Disorders Research, and the National Transportation Safety Board:

In 1997, the direct costs of sleepiness and lost productivity in the workplace was estimated at more than $18 billion.
Drowsy drivers take the blame for at least 100,000 police-reported crashes in the US annually.

Forty million Americans suffer debilitating sleep disorders; the majority of them are undiagnosed.
Sleep-related accidents cost the American government and business an estimated $50 billion each year.
Nearly 29 percent of fatal-to-the-driver commercial truck crashes are caused by drowsiness.

How much sleep is needed?
Although sleep needs vary from person to person, generally, most healthy adults need an average of 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night. If you have some of the following problems, you may need more sleep than you are getting:

trouble staying alert during boring or monotonous activities
tendency to be unreasonably irritable with co-workers, family, or friends
difficulty concentrating or remembering facts
What are the different types of sleep problems?

There are many types of sleep problems – some estimates say at least 84 disorders of sleeping and waking interfere with quality of life and personal health, and endanger public heath. These problems range from staying awake or staying with a regular sleep/wake cycle, sleepwalking, bedwetting, nightmares, insomnia, restless legs syndrome, snoring, and sleep apnea syndrome.

Help for Sleep Problems
For those who suffer from sleep disorders, help is available from many sources.

Sleep problems may be caused by or the result of disorders in various systems of the body. Sleep apnea, for example, is a respiratory disorder while narcolepsy is a neurological disorder.

Sleep problems can be treated or managed by different medical specialties. For example, pulmonary medicine will offer help to people who suffer from sleep apnea, and neurology will provide treatment for narcolepsy.

However, other medical specialties also offer treatment for sleep disorders. Many rehabilitation facilities and anesthesiology departments sponsor comprehensive sleep disorder programs, as do mental health centers.

Talk with your physician about which sleep disorder program is right for you.

Adapted from: University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC