Studies suggest that sleep disorders affect approximately 20 percent of the population The consequences of sleep deprivation and undiagnosed sleep disorders are collectively one of the nation’s leading and most serious problems. Falling asleep at the wheel and in other hazardous situations is a significant cause of death and disability.A sleep disorder exists whenever a low quality of sleep results in impaired functioning or excessive sleepiness. Although sleep disorders may be accompanied by other medical or psychiatric conditions, in many cases, sleep disorders exist in the absence of these other conditions.
Insomnia, the most common sleep disorder, has various causes and afflicts between 6 to 12 percent of the adult population. Sleep deprivation induces significant reductions in performance and alertness, which may result in impaired memory and cognition. Avoidance of certain activities that require sustained attention, such as going to the movies or seeing a child’s school play, may significantly affect quality of life. Disruption of a bed partner’s sleep due to a sleep disorder may cause problems for the relationship. The stresses of daily life may intrude upon sleeping ability or sleep may be traded for work or leisure activities.
Remarkably, the clinical consequences of untreated sleep disorders are associated with numerous medical conditions such as high older blood pressure, obesity, and stroke. Studies show an increased mortality risk for those reporting less than six or seven hours of sleep per night. Current management of sleep disorders depends on the type and cause of the disorder.
The Biological Clock
The major role of the biological clock in the regulation of sleep and wakefulness is to provide an internal and powerful wake-up signal to the brain. It is a term applied to the brain processes that cause 24-hour fluctuations in body temperature, hormone secretion, and considerable other bodily activities. Most sleep complaints involve difficulties in falling asleep or staying asleep and not feeling refreshed on awakening.
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