Sleep is important, yet a surprising number of us are living with lousy sleep habits and terrible sleep patterns. You may know from personal experience that a lack of good sleep can leave us feeling exhausted in the morning. The consequences continue all day long. We’ll tend to be more irritable, we’ll find it harder to pay attention at work, and our work and personal lives will suffer. The list of consequences of sleep deprivation goes on and on — but what can we do about it?
The best ways to get regular sleep involve real lifestyle change and healthy decisions. Our sleep patterns are just that — patterns — so smart sleep habits include going to bed and rising at regular hours and respecting our bodies’ circadian rhythm — a natural pattern associated with the day-night rhythm of the earth. Getting regular exercise and eating well can help our sleep, too, as can avoiding alcohol and other intoxicating substances (especially right before bed — in addition to encouraging us to stay up later, these substances can often affect the actual quality of our sleep even after we nod off). So it may be worth opting out of happy hour a couple of times a week.
Of course, in our high-paced corporate world, we seem to celebrate those who can stay at work late and night and run on 4 hours of sleep a night. But less sleep can make us less efficient, so the reality is that, in order to do your best work, you should be well-rested. Any good boss will recognize and respect that.
However, even the most careful work on sleep patterns and lifestyle decisions can be insufficient for those of us who suffer from sleep disorders. The number of us who fall into that category is very large.
Sleep disorders are very common, experts say. The most common sleep disorders include insomnia and narcolepsy, each of which affect about 10% of the population. That’s a lot of people — and not all of these folks are diagnosed! In fact, some of the most common sleep disorders are also among the most underdiagnosed.
One striking example of an underdiagnosed sleep disorder is sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is treatable, experts at SoClean Canada — a company that specializes in cleaners for CPAP machines, often used to treat sleep apnea — tell us. However, there’s no way to treat a patient who does not know that they have a problem, and a startling number of sleep apnea sufferers are undiagnosed. Some 80% of moderate and severe cases go undiagnosed, experts estimate, which means that there are as many as 22 million sleep apnea sufferers in the United States — the vast majority of whom are dealing with the condition in ignorance and on their own.
Sleep apnea, by the way, is a disorder that involves breathing disruption during sleep. The symptoms include difficulty staying asleep and loud snoring. This is not a diagnosis, of course, but if you’re experiencing exhaustions, you should speak to a medical expert about the possibility that you are suffering from sleep apnea or another sleep disorder.
That’s the bottom line here: to get the kind of help you need, you should speak to a doctor. Don’t let your work or home environment suffer, either due to poor habits or an undiagnosed condition. Make that your next step, and start reclaiming your sleep — and your life!