Diseases

About Sleep Disorder

Sleep is absolutely essential for normal, healthy function. Scientists and medical professionals still have much to learn about this complicated physiological phenomenon. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, about 40 million people in the United States suffer from chronic long-term sleep disorders each year and an additional 20 million people experience occasional sleep problems.

There are more than 70 different sleep disorders, which are generally classified into one of three categories:

* lack of sleep (e.g., insomnia),
* disturbed sleep (e.g., obstructive sleep apnea), and
* excessive sleep (e.g., narcolepsy).

In most cases, sleep disorders can be easily managed once they are properly diagnosed. Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder. It occurs more often in women and in the elderly.


The amount of sleep that a person needs to function in a normal manner depends on several factors, including age. Infants sleep most of the day (about 16 hours); teenagers usually need about 9 hours a day; and adults need an average of 7 to 8 hours a day. Although older adults require about as much sleep as younger adults, they usually sleep for shorter periods and spend less time in deep stages of sleep. About 50% of adults over the age of 65 have some type of sleep disorder, although it is not clear whether this is a normal part of aging or a result of other factors, such as medications that are commonly used by older people.

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