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Experts from Northwestern Memorial's Sleep Disorders Center Remind Chicago Residents About the Importance of a Good Night's Sleep

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March 3, 2008

Chicago -

More than 70 Million Americans Suffer from Sleep Disorders

To be well-rested is a feat easier said than done for approximately 40 million adults who suffer from chronic sleep disorders and an additional 30 million troubled by intermittent sleep-related conditions. As we prepare to “spring forward” to Daylight Savings Time on March 9, experts at the Sleep Disorders Center at Northwestern Memorial urge people to examine their current sleep habits and remember the importance of a good night’s sleep.

The national incidence of sleep deprivation is largely due to undiagnosed sleep disorders such as insomnia, sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, and narcolepsy, many of which can be treated, however often go undiagnosed.

“Sleep problems are widespread and on the rise, yet many people dismiss the issue and don’t realize the consequences that can result” said Phyllis Zee, MD, director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Northwestern Memorial. “Continuous quality sleep is essential, as sleep loss over an extended period of time has been linked to serious health issues including obesity, depression, heart attack and stroke,” adds Zee. 

Sleep deprivation can also lead to poor performance at work and impaired driving.  An estimated 47 million adults acknowledge they don’t get the minimum amount of sleep needed to be alert the next day, which can lead to lower productivity for employers. Dangerous driving is also a common occurance. In fact, according to a recent poll by the National Sleep Foundation, about 60 percent of licensed drivers, about 118 million people, reported driving while drowsy,  of which more than one-third said they had actually nodded off or fell asleep at the wheel. Several studies show that prolonged wakefulness can impair driving performance to that of a blood alcohol level of .05 percent to .10 percent, with .08 percent considered legally drunk. According to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) approximately 100,000 police-reported crashes and 1,500 deaths occur in the U.S. each year because of drowsy driving.

“There is a common misconception that you can ‘catch up’ on sleep,” Zee noted. “Unfortunately, this is not true. Adequate and consistent sleep is far more important than the general public perceives it to be.  Sleep habits are an important indicator of one’s overall health and continued sleep problems need to be addressed,” adds Zee. 

How Much is Enough?
The number of hours needed for sleep is highly individual and can vary from six to 10 hours. For many, interrupted sleep is a result of less-than-tranquil bedtime habits, not a disorder.  Zee recommends first addressing the problem by following these simple tips:

  • Maintain a regular bed and wake time schedule – even on weekends
  • Create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet and comfortable
  • Complete meals and exercise a few hours before bedtime
  • Avoid caffeine close to bedtime

Warning Signs
There are many daytime consequences that can signal a poor night’s sleep, some of which are more apparent than others. If you consistently experience any of the following six symptoms of inadequate sleep, be sure to inform your doctor or healthcare provider:

  • Dozing off while reading, watching TV, sitting in meetings, or sitting in traffic
  • Slowed thinking and reacting
  • Difficulty listening to what is said or understanding directions
  • Frequent errors or mistakes
  • Depression or negative mood
  • Impatience or being quick to anger

Northwestern Memorial’s Sleep Disorders Center conducts day and night studies for the diagnosis and treatment of sleep problems. To learn more about the science of sleep, sleep needs and tips for a good night’s rest, contact the center at 312-926-2650.

Last UpdateFebruary 8, 2011