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Good sleep is vital to good health. Sleep helps people cope with stress, solve problems, and recover from illness or injury. Lack of sleep can lead to drowsiness, irritability, lack of concentration, memory and physical problems. While the amount of sleep needed for good health and optimum performance mostly depends on the individual, experts suggest that adults function best when they get seven to nine hours of sleep each night. You should figure out how much sleep you need to feel well-rested. Ensuring that fatigue isn't a problem during the day is one way of determining how much sleep is needed.

Common sleep-wake disorders include insomnia, nightmares, sleep terrors, obstructive sleep apnea, narcolepsy and restless leg syndrome.

  1. Insomnia – Insomnia refers to having trouble falling or staying asleep. Sleep problems can often lead to experiences of anxiety and depression. Likewise, having anxiety and depression can contribute to sleep problems.
  2. Nightmares – Nightmares usually happen during Rapid Eye Movement sleep and bring up feelings of terror or distress related to a traumatic event. The nightmare is a reliving of that traumatic event with the same fear, rage, or helplessness that was felt during the actual event. They are so vivid and detailed that people often remember them after waking.
  3. Sleep terrors – Any sleep terror memories are single images – not like the story experience you get from a nightmare. Sleep terrors can be so frightening or terrifying that you may scream, shake, sweat, feel your heart race, feel confused, or have trouble calming down. When the sleep terror ends, you calm down and return to normal sleep. Most people don't remember sleep terrors when they wake up.
  4. Others – Obstructive sleep apnea, narcolepsy and restless legs syndromes.

Here are some steps you can take if you are concerned about having a sleep problem:

  1. Meet with your primary care provider. They can do a careful evaluation of your specific sleep concerns and recommend strategies to improve your sleep.
  2. Learn about sleep hygiene and keep a sleep diary. Sleep hygiene refers to setting up a sleep schedule, routine and environment to improve your chances for better sleep. A sleep diary helps to track when you go to sleep, how long you sleep and how well you sleep. The mobile app, CBT-I Coach, has information and a sleep diary.
  3. Educate yourself on different aspects of sleep. The podcast, "A Better Night's Sleep" is a set of interviews with experts on all topics related to sleep such as sleepwalking, nightmares, parasomnias, etc.

How do you know if you have a sleep problem? When should you consider getting help from a health care professional?

For more questions or answers about sleep, please visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention: SleepSleep and Sleep Disorders page on the CDC website

Last Updated: June 14, 2022
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