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The recommended number of hours of sleep for an adult is between 7 and 9 hours, although this varies from person to person, less than 6 and over 11 hours of sleep is not recommended. The epidemiology of sleep is a young field of study, however 20% to 41.7% of the general population has reported insufficient sleep. Lack of sleep can affect a person’s mood, memory, longevity and health. Sleep deprivation is characterized by lack of sleep as well as by symptoms experienced during the day, such as; sleepiness, cognitive impairment, irritability, mood swings and anxiety. This essay will cover sleep deprivation effects on health, and the sleep disorders that impact individuals’ ability to attain good-quality sleep.
Insufficient sleep can lead to problems in an individual’s safety, weight, brain function and overall health. The most prominent safety risk due to a lack of sleep is vehicular accidents, each year there are approximately 6,000 fatal car crashes caused by drowsy driving. When the body runs on lack of sleep there is an increase in food cravings due to higher levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin that are released, and lower levels of the appetite control hormone leptin (Finan, 2015). If an individual gets less than 5 hours of sleep on a nightly basis, the risk for obesity increases by 50%. Other health risks associated with sleep deprivation include a 36% increase in the risk for colorectal cancer, less active natural killer cells in the immune system, 48% increase in the risk of developing heart disease and a 33% increase in the risk of developing dementia. Sleep deprivation effects the body and the mind which can manifest as health issues, but sleep deprived people also have a higher likelihood of depression, irritability, anxiety, forgetfulness and fuzzy thinking.
There are over 70 defined sleep disorders and several hundred studies assessing sleep disorders in the general population. Four of the most common sleep disorders reported are insomnia, narcolepsy, obstructive sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome. Insomnia is characterized by a multitude of sleep complaints such as difficulty initiating sleep, difficulty maintaining sleep, nocturnal awakening with difficulty or inability to resume sleep, or non-restorative sleep. Insomnia in the general population is poorly documented, with many cases being undiagnosed, however many studies have shown that insomnia is the most chronic sleep disorder and lasted at least one year in 85% of cases.
Excessive sleepiness is another complaint that is common throughout the population. Although it is commonly labeled as a sleep disorder, that is not the case, and it often is in result of an underlying sleep disorder or other illness. Excessive sleepiness is often due to poor sleep hygiene, breathing-related sleep disorders, psychiatric disorders and physical illness. Sleep apnea is a common breathing-related sleep disorder characterized by periods of apnea during sleep lasting at least 10 seconds. Found in 2% to 4% of the population, obstructive sleep apnea is related to excessive sleepiness and insomnia, while sleep apnea affects 9% to 24% of the general population and may or may not have symptoms associated with it.
In conclusion, sleep disorders are common and vary in severity, which makes it difficult for them to be identified. The diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders is important, as living with a sleep disorder and finding no solutions can lead to numerous health issues. Sleep deprivation effects the day to day function of a person, as well as their longevity and the future state of their health. Without identifying these disorders and the lifestyle factors or illnesses that they are associated with; people will continue to struggle to enjoy day to day life and to function optimally.
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