According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about 70 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep problems. Unfortunately, we live in a fast-paced society where sleep is not always a priority. We often overlook feeling tired and sleep deprived, chalking it up to a necessary part of a busy life. But besides the obvious impact on quality of life, sleep issues have also been linked to injuries, chronic diseases, mental illnesses, increased health care costs, and lost work productivity.
If you regularly have trouble falling or staying asleep (insomnia), are tired during the day (even after getting seven or more hours of sleep the night before), or notice that your abilities to perform daily functions are reduced, you may have a sleep disorder. Start by keeping track of your sleeping patterns. Record what time you go to sleep, how many times you wake up during the night, what time you wake up, and how you feel during the day. Take note of clues like the following:
- nodding off while driving
- struggling to stay awake when inactive, such as when watching television or reading
- difficulty paying attention or concentrating at work, school, or home
- performance problems at work or school
- getting told by others that you look sleepy often
- difficulty with your memory
- slowed responses
- difficulty controlling your emotions
- needing to take naps almost every day
If you experience one or more of the symptoms above, you should seek the help of a professional who can determine what is preventing you from experiencing quality sleep and help to address the problem. In some cases, disturbed sleep can be caused by sleep apnea, a chronic condition in which you have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep. Many people don’t even know they suffer from this condition, but it’s important to find out what’s causing it because it can lead to an increased risk of more serious health conditions like heart attack, diabetes, stroke, and obesity.