National Sleep Awareness Week Highlights Sleep Disorders

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By Nicole Eugene

During Ohio University’s spring break this year, an important awareness campaign took place and we wanted to both honor and recognize it. National Sleep Awareness week was March 2-9 —which coincided with daylight saving time this year. Recent research has shown that losing just that one hour of sleep has resulted in a spike in traffic accidents. Many people don’t realize how much difference just one hour of sleep can make.

For example, did you know:

• That people spend, on average, over one-third of their lives asleep, and that sleep affects nearly every major physiological system in your body? When someone has a sleep disorder or skimps on sleep regularly, he/she can have major health consequences. Not getting enough sleep can negatively affect a person’s immune system, as well as have a negative impact on a person’s performance, memory, and mood. Long-term problems that stem from lack of quality sleep include an increased risk for developing chronic health conditions like heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure and Type II diabetes.

• There are a number of sleep disorders that affect the quality and amount of sleep a person gets. Insomnia is probably the most known sleep disorder in the U.S., but there are many others that often go unnoticed, or that are less common.

• Sleep Apnea, otherwise known as obstructive sleep disorder, is a pulmonary condition in which the patient stops breathing while asleep. About half of people that snore loudly have sleep apnea. Health risks to an individual who has sleep apnea include the increased risk of daytime sleepiness/chronic fatigue, and heart disease.

•  Narcolepsy is an auto-immune disorder in which the brain is unable to control your body’s sleep-awake pattern(s). About one in two thousand people have narcolepsy, and only a small fraction of them are diagnosed and are actively receiving treatment. Julie Flygare recently published her memoir that recounts how her symptoms developed and how she eventually was diagnosed.

Research on sleep is a young and growing field. While sleep science and sleep medicine were both established over half a century ago, the social sciences and the humanities have lagged a bit in their willingness to examine these disorders that directly affect one-third of the population. The good news, however, is that this lack of attention to these disorders may soon turn around.