- 50% of Americans, according to the 2002 NSF Sleep in America poll, who report difficulty falling asleep, frequent awakenings, waking too early and having trouble getting back to sleep, and waking unrefreshed. Insomnia can be short or long-term and may be due to stress, an underlying medical or psychiatric problem such as depression, a loss or poor sleep/health habits.
- Sleep apnea sufferers actually stop breathing for several seconds, waking up hundreds of times per night, snorting and gasping for air. Sleep apnea is most common in men and overweight people. Untreated, it's linked to high blood pressure and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
- Persons with narcolepsy experience "sleep attacks" that can occur at any time. Strong emotions sometimes bring on a sudden loss of muscle control called "cataplexy." When falling asleep or waking up, sufferers also may experience brief paralysis and/or vivid images and sounds.
- Those with restless legs syndrome (RLS) have unusual sensations in the legs (and sometimes arms) that disturb sleep. Only movement brings relief. Individuals may also experience periodic limb movement disorder, PLMD, or a jerking of the legs during sleep.
- Sleepwalking, a tendency to get up and wander about while asleep, is most common in children and tends to run in families. Protect the sleepwalker by keeping doors and windows locked.
- Sufferers of sleep terrors often scream or fight but have no memory of the event the next day.
Treatments for sleep disorders may include medication, light therapy, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) devices, and scheduled naps.
When Sleepiness Equals Danger
Even occasional sleeping problems can make daily life difficult. Lack of sleep can make you irritable and impatient, have trouble concentrating, and you could become a dangerous driver. According to a 1997 NSF poll, Sleeplessness, Pain and the Workplace, sleep loss costs U.S. employers an estimated $18 billion in lost productivity. And the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conservatively estimates that vehicle crashes due to driver fatigue cost Americans $12.5 billion per year in reduced productivity and property loss. The greatest cost? More than 1,500 people die every year