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Sleep Disorders

  • The average American woman gets only 6.5 hours of sleep per night. Seven to 8 hours of sleep is recommended by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF).

  • Doctors are the worst patients in this arena. The average family physician sleeps only 4 to 5 hours per day.

  • According to an NSF survey, 58% of adults say they suffer from symptoms of insomnia.

  • Insomnia is defined as: difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, or waking up too early.

  • Causes of insomnia include depression, anxiety disorders, restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea, caffeine and other stimulants, pain, poor sleep habits, hormonal changes (menstruation, PMS, pregnancy, nursing, perimenopause, menopause), menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, incontinence, environmental challenges (too hot, too cold, snoring partner, outside noises, etc.), and jet lag.

  • Melatonin is a popular over-the-counter sleep aid, but has been shown to have a weak effect in sleep disturbances other than jet lag.

  • The annual health care bill for someone who suffers from sleep apnea (but has not yet been diagnosed) is approximately twice as much as the yearly total for someone without this condition.

  • Sleep-deprived drivers are as dangerous as drunk drivers.

  • According to the NSF, one out of 4 adult Americans takes sleep medication at some point during the year.

  • Over-the-counter sleep aids: e.g. Tylenol PM, Compoz, Sominex, and Unisom generally contain antihistamines (e.g. diphenhydramine, the active ingredient in Benadryl), which produce drowsiness as a side effect.  Use of these medications should be limited. They can produce a morning hangover effect and tolerance to the dose can develop.

  • Herbal/hormonal supplements:  The hormonal supplement melatonin and the herbal supplement valerian are the most popular OTC sleep aids.  The FDA regulates neither of these products, however.

  • Prescription sleep aids:

    • Benzodiazepines (e.g. Valium, Klonopin).
    • Nonbenzodiazepines (e.g. Ambien, Sonata).
    • Sometimes antidepressants are also prescribed for sleep disturbances --even in patients who do not have clinical depression.

Click here for more information about depression or other mental health issues.

Created: 12/19/2000  -  Donnica Moore, M.D.

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