People take their sleep for granted—at least that’s what some local sleep doctors have observed.
Experts are taking the opportunity during National Sleep Awareness Week, which started Sunday and runs through Saturday, to remind people about the importance of sleep and how a sleep disorder can cause other issues or be a symptom of another health issue.
“Sleep is very important,” said Mary C. Adekunle, Clinical Director of the Sleep and Neurodiagnostics Center at Bacharach Institute for Rehabilitation in New Jersey. “Diet and exercise are key, too, but sleep is even more important, because if you’re not sleeping, the other two are not working.”
Sleep doctors recommend that people get sleep screenings, positive airway pressure therapy (PAP) machine pressure checks and equipment evaluations.
Between 50 and 70 million adults in the United States have a sleep disorder, according to the American Sleep Association, which can include insomnia, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, restless leg syndrome and others.
Insomnia is the most common specific sleep disorder, with short term issues reported by about 30 percent of adults and chronic insomnia by 10 percent of adults, according to the association.
Adekunle said it’s common for patients of all different ages to come in with memory problems, fatigue, hyperactivity, uncontrolled hypertension and a general unwell feeling before they discover that they suffer from a sleep disorder.
Sleep disorders can cause or exacerbate other medical issues, like cardiovascular disease, Adekunle said.
Although federal guidelines recommend that adults get at least seven or more hours of sleep every night, higher percentages of people living in north- and southeast parts of the country get less than the recommended sleep levels, according to a 2014 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.
“People, especially Americans, rob ourselves of sleep,” Adekunle said. “We don’t understand the meaning and importance of relaxing and feeling refreshed. Cutting sleep even by two hours is a big deal, because you miss a whole sleep cycle. We really need to focus on sleep, and schedule it like everything else.”