Excessive Daytime Sleepiness, Health and Safety

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August 2, 2010

Excessive Sleepiness a Public Health and Safety Concern

Researchers have found that 19.5% of U.S. adults are suffering from moderate to severe excessive daytime sleepiness; a cause for public health and safety concerns. "The number of individuals sleepy or drowsy during situations where they should be alert is disturbing," said principal investigator Dr. Maurice Ohayon, professor of psychiatry at Stanford University and director of the Stanford Sleep Epidemiology Research Center in Palo Alto, California. The results indicate that "...the prevalence of excessive daytime sleepiness is very high in the American population, much higher than what we observed in the European population," said Dr. Ohayon , who cited a 2002 study which reported that the prevalence of excessive daytime sleepiness in Europe stood at 15 percent. He added that "...Insufficient sleep is plaguing the American population and is one of the leading factors for excessive daytime sleepiness." The study revealed that 11% of participants reported severe excessive daytime sleepiness – a condition more prevalent in women (13 percent) than in men (8.6 percent). These results raise public safety concerns, particularly regarding the potential for workplace injuries and drowsy driving accidents related to excessive sleepiness. One of the primary causes of excessive sleepiness among Americans is self-imposed sleep deprivation. In the U.S. and many other parts of the world, sleep loss may occur as a result of economic or societal pressures. People may skimp on sleep in hopes of getting more done, and widespread access to technology makes it possible to stay busy (at the computer, for example) around the clock. Excessive sleepiness is also linked with a number of primary sleep disorders. For example, sleep disordered breathing (SDB), which includes snoring and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), is often associated with excessive sleepiness. Because SDB may result in frequent interruptions during sleep, it can lead to sleepiness during waking hours no matter how many hours a person actually spent in bed. Dr. Ohayon pointed out that "... sleepiness is underestimated in its daily life consequences for the general population, for the shift workers and for the people reducing their amount of sleep for any kind of good reasons. It is