10 of the Most Important Things You Need to Know About Sleep

The National Sleep Foundation is celebrating its annual Sleep Awareness Week
© March 6th through March 13th, to raise awareness of the health benefits of sleep and its importance to safety and productivity. We’ve compiled a list of ten of the most important things you should know about sleep. Learn more and spread awareness about sleep health with your family, friends and colleagues.

1. Sleep is as important as diet and exercise. 

  • Lack of sleep causes people to exercise less
  • If you sleep less, you eat more the next day
  • Even if you eat well AND exercise, you lose less fat when you’re not getting enough sleep

Here’s a great article from Shape Magazine that review the relationship between sleep and exercise and diet with recent research.

2. Drowsy driving causes 100,000 crashes, 71,000 injuries,and 1,550 deaths every year.

We all know that drinking and driving is a big no-no…but did you know that driving sleepy is just as dangerous as driving drunk? Not only do car accidents pose a serious threat for people with chronic sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, but anyone who gets behind a wheel with less than optimal rest could be putting themselves in danger. With a majority of the population admitting to steering while exhausted, that makes for a lot of potential accidents. Read more here.

3. New guidelines suggest that adults get between 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night.

The National Sleep Foundation, along with a multi-disciplinary expert panel, issued its new recommendations in 2015 for appropriate sleep durations. The report recommends wider appropriate sleep ranges for most age groups. Where do you fall?

4. Sleep disorders affect 40 million Americans.

Chronic, long-term sleep disorders affect at least 40 million Americans each year, and an additional 20 million experience occaisional sleeping problems. There are more than 100 sleep disorders and many can be diagnosed with a sleep study. Learn more here.

5. Snoring can be more than just a nuisance, it can be a sign of a sleep disorder.

Snoring, which affects about 45% of adults in the US, can be disruptive for the snorer and his/her bed partner. More importantly, snoring can indicate a more severe sleep disorder such as sleep apnea. Learn more from our guest post by Clark O. Taylor, M.D., D.D.S.

6. Sleep apnea affects 20 million Americans.

Is that you? Your bed partner? Your child? Your parent?

Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder defined as the cessation of breath during sleep. This leads to reduced oxygen flow and poor sleep quality. When oxygen levels dip during sleep apnea, the brain signals the body to partially wake up. The person’s sleep is disturbed and he is never allowed to sink into deep, restorative sleep stages. People with severe sleep apnea can go through this process hundreds of times each night. Often, people do not remember this happening and think that they have slept as normal. However, they wake up feeling exhausted, groggy, and unrested. 

People suffering from sleep apnea deal with not only the negative effects of sleep deprivation, but also the strain of trying to cope with oxygen deprivation at night. This puts serious strain on the brain, the heart, and the rest of the body.

Learn more, talk to your doctor and get tested.

7. 80% of the people with obstructive sleep apnea don’t know they have it.

As described above, many people suffering from the disruption of apnea during the night don’t remember and think they’re sleeping fine. Many times their bed partner is the first person to notice a problem. Other times, you may be suffering other symptoms:

  • Excessive sleepiness during the day. People with sleep apnea are incapable of getting restful sleep, which means they are chronically sleep-deprived, no matter how long they spend in bed. If you are constantly exhausted, sleep apnea could be the cause. 
  • Decrease in attention, lack of concentration, lack of energy, irritability. Many of the mood and concentration issues that are associated with not getting enough sleep are constant hallmarks of sleep apnea. 
  • Decrease in memory. Poor sleep quality decreases your recall ability. Plus, prolonged oxygen deprivation can damage your brain.
  • Poor sleep at night. If you have trouble sleeping at night, or frequently have to get up to use the bathroom, this points to the poor sleep quality caused by sleep apnea. 
  • Snoring. People who snore are more likely to suffer from OSA.
  • Choking sounds or periods of not breathing at night. During an apnea, a person stops breathing and may begin gasping, choking or snorting. If you notice this in a bed partner, or if you wake up at night gasping, this is a serious warning sign. 
  • Waking up with a dry mouth, sore throat, or headache. These are all aftereffects of a strenuous night of sleep. 
  • Other health conditions. Sleep apnea is strongly correlated with several other health problems, most notably heart disease and high blood pressure. If you have these conditions, sleep apnea could be contributing. 

8. 2-3% of children have sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea occurs when throat tissue obstructs a person’s airway while they are asleep, blocking their breath, which leads to restless sleep and unhealthy strain on the body. Thus, one of the most obvious symptoms that your child has this condition is heavy snoring, gasping, snorting, choking, or uneven breathing during sleep. Frequent bed wetting or nightmares, strange posture while sleeping, and waking up with headaches or a dry throat could also betray troubled sleep.

There are several behavioral clues that could also indicate that your child’s sleep is not as sound as it could be. A child might seem excessively sleepy during the day. Other possible side effects could include behavioral problems like hyperactivity or learning difficulties. Thus, children who unknowingly suffer from sleep apnea are often misdiagnosed with ADHD. Learn more about testing and treating sleep apnea in children here.

9. Around 1 in 3 people have at least mild insomnia.

The causes of insomnia are potentially infinite. Acute insomnia–a brief disruption in sleep for a few nights–is common, and there are many factors that impact the quality of your sleep on a daily basis. Everything from stress or anxiety, to spending too much time on your laptop before bed, to taking too many naps, to using cold medicine could lead to a bout of restless nights.

Chronic insomnia, or a frequent sleep deficit, can be caused by a wide variety of issues. Here are some examples: 

  • Medical conditions. These include nasal allergies, arthritis, asthma, or chronic pain. 
  • Emotional distress. There is a proven link between depression and insomnia. People with depression are at much higher risk of developing the sleep disorder, and lack of sleep can worsen depression symptoms. Anxiety and stress also lead to sleeplessness. 
  • Lifestyle/sleep patterns. If you have irregular or untraditional sleep patterns, you might be finding it hard to nod off at night. Naps, an irregular sleep schedule, or shift work can mess up your circadian rhythms.
  • Sleep disorders. This is a big one! If you’re chronically not getting the sleep you need or feel tired in spite of having a full night’s sleep, this could be a sign of a sleep disorder, like Restless Leg Syndrome or sleep apnea, that’s disrupting the quality of your rest. 

10. Sleep problems are linked to infertility.

According to Michael J. Breus, Clinical Psychologist and Board Certified Sleep Specialist, sleep has a “powerful influence on the body’s hormonal system, which controls a woman’s cycle and regulates ovulation.” Persons who suffer from a lack of sleep have a substantially higher level of the stress hormones adrenocorticotropic and cortisol, both of which are known to inhibit a healthy fertility cycle. Learn more about the link between sleep disorders and fertility here.

If you think that you or a loved one may have a sleep disorder, click below to request more information about having a sleep test.

Request a Sleep Study

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