Unfortunately, this news makes a lot of sense to me: Sleep problems are extremely common, yet they go dramatically under-reported by patients and under-diagnosed by physicians. In addition, people with sleep problems are significantly more likely to require health-care treatment, including hospitalization, according to findings from an analysis of sleep data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a national survey that is conducted annually and covers a range of health and nutrition topics.
The data used in this recent analysis represents the first time the survey has included questions specifically addressing sleep. The results shed important light on just how common problems with sleep are -- and just how many are going undiagnosed and untreated.
Slightly more than 2,000 men and women participated in the sleep portion of the survey. The respondents had an average age of 46, and they all rated their own health as either "excellent," "good" or "very good." Among this group, nearly everyone -- 99 percent -- reported at least one sleep complaint. And many people reported multiple difficulties: the average number of sleep complaints per respondent was 4.2. The survey analysis also revealed:
The responsibility belongs not just to health care professionals. Your health -- and your sleep -- is in your hands. Here are some steps you can take to make sure your sleep is getting the attention it deserves:
Don't ignore the snore. The first step in protecting and improving the quality of your sleep is to be attentive to your symptoms. Snoring, daytime tiredness, fatigue, irritability, lack of focus: these are all signs of sleep deficiencies that are often brushed aside.
Talk to your doctor. This one is a no-brainer. If you've noticed any signs or symptoms of disordered sleep, take your concerns to your physician. We all must be our own biggest health advocate. If you feel your sleep concerns are not being taken seriously, be persistent and, if necessary, seek out a health care provider who will.
Commit to a sleep routine. Sleep is a critical factor in your mental and physical health, along with diet and exercise. Create a sleep schedule that you can stick to -- and that allows you to sleep 6-8 hours per night.
Kids count, too. Sleep problems are not exclusive to adults. Sleep difficulties can start even in very young children -- and so can the consequences to their health. Helping your children develop strong sleep habits will help protect their health now and in the long-term.
Doctors and patients: let's get the sleep conversation started.
Michael J. Breus, PhD
The Sleep Doctor™
Everything you do, you do better with a good night's sleep™
Follow Dr. Michael J. Breus on Twitter: www.twitter.com/thesleepdoctor