Getting a good night’s sleep is critical for the health of your body and brain. It is one of our most basic needs, yet many people underestimate its importance. For optimal functioning, adults need 7-8 hours of sleep each night, but more than 35% of adults get less than 7 hours. Teenagers need 8-10 hours, yet only about one-third of them sleep that much. Younger children require even more to support healthy development. When kids and teens are deprived of adequate sleep, it can disrupt the release of growth hormone (and other hormones), interfere with their ability to pay attention and learn at school, and lead to behavioral problems and other issues. Not getting enough sleep on a regular basis increases everyone’s risk for mental health disorders, diabetes, obesity, relationship issues, memory and cognitive difficulties, a compromised immune system, cardiovascular problems, decreased productivity, and more.
Approximately 50-70 million Americans have some type of sleep disorder. Nearly one-third of us suffer from short-term bouts of insomnia, the most common sleep problem. And chronic insomnia affects approximately 1 in 10 people. The rates are even higher among those who have psychiatric disorders. In fact, research shows that about 75% of people with depression have insomnia; 69 to 99% of those with bipolar disorder experience insomnia or a reduced need for sleep during manic episodes. Over half of the people with anxiety have trouble sleeping; and children with ADHD are more likely to have sleep problems than kids without the condition.
Indications that you or a loved one might have a sleep disorder will vary, depending on the underlying cause, but symptoms can include:
Since sleep disorders often occur with other physical and mental health conditions, the doctors at The Mind Research Foundation do a thorough evaluation along with appropriate testing to get to the root of each patient’s problem(s). The goal is to get you back to restful slumber without the use of sleeping pills or sedatives—medications that brain imaging studies show can be harmful to your brain.
Approximately 35% of American adults and 69% of high school students, don’t get adequate sleep at night. In modern sleep medicine, we don’t view insomnia as a lack of sleep, but rather excessive wakefulness of the brain. This can be caused by poor sleep hygiene or by physical or mental health conditions, such as certain medical problems, chronic pain, medications, significant stressors, depression, anxiety, and other issues.
Hypersomnia refers to excessive sleepiness in which a person has trouble staying awake, can fall asleep at any time, and has difficulty waking up. Hypersomnia can be caused by substance abuse, depression, bipolar disorder, brain injury or tumors, and some medications and medical conditions as well as other sleep disorders, like narcolepsy and obstructive sleep apnea.
OSA is a serious sleep disorder that is caused by periods of apnea (temporary cessation of breathing) that can last from a few seconds to a couple of minutes. These events may occur a few times each hour, or in more serious cases, up to a hundred! The chronic lack of oxygen from recurrent episodes of apnea can damage and age the brain, increase the risk for stroke and heart attack, and double a person’s risk for Alzheimer’s disease.
Common symptoms of OSA include:
Getting a diagnosis and treatment for sleep apnea is critical to keeping your brain healthy and preventing or minimizing symptoms of psychiatric or medical conditions. The gold standard for treatment of OSA is a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) mask, which delivers a steady stream of air through your passageways, preventing the back of the throat from collapsing over your airway. Some people are hesitant to use a CPAP machine because they think it will be uncomfortable, but design improvements have made them more user friendly. If you have avoided treating your sleep apnea, it’s time to seriously reconsider in order to lower your risk of serious problems. Because the brain is so oxygen dependent, untreated sleep apnea literally kills brain cells, and over time, can lead to irreversible damage.
Parasomnias are disruptive sleep-related events, such as:
Body muscles that aren’t paralyzed during REM sleep allow for muscle movement during dreams. This type of behavior can be violent and even result in injury. It often involves thrashing around at night because of a bad dream and may even lead to hurting yourself or your bedmate.
This includes people who work late at night doing shift work or who travel across time zones and develop jet lag. We can help people adapt to their unique sleep schedule by altering their circadian rhythms.
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