Inadequate sleep and poor sleep habits have been linked with a variety of chronic illnesses including type II diabetes, heart disease, obesity, hypertension, and depression. Poor sleep can also increase the risk of being involved in a motor vehicle accident or other types of accidents. Experts recommend that adults get 7-9 hours of sleep per night. According to the federal National Institutes of Health (NIH), one-third of Americans regularly get less than 7 hours of sleep per night, and 50-70 million adults in the US have a sleep or wakefulness disorder. Approximately 70 percent of high school students don’t get enough sleep on school nights.
Some of the more common sleep disorders include chronic insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Signs of OSA include snoring, fitful sleep, and daytime sleepiness. This disorder is more common in obese individuals, people with large tonsils, and smokers. It is estimated that up to 1 in 5 adult Americans may have some degree of OSA. It is important to know that this is a treatable condition; treatment may include surgery or the use of pressurized ventilation (CPAP) during sleep. People who suffer from OSA may notice a dramatic improvement in alertness and energy with treatment.
There are a number of steps that people can take to improve their sleep, collectively known as sleep hygiene. These may include the following:
- Increase exercise during the daytime.
- Avoid taking long naps.
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine, large meals, or nicotine close to bedtime.
- Follow a regular sleep schedule.
- If you have difficulty falling asleep, get up and go to another room in 20 minutes rather than lying awake in bed for hours.