What’s Being Done To Help America Sleep?
Why is it so hard for us to get a good night’s sleep? And is there anything new being done about a health issue that the American Sleep Association (ASA) contends affects up to 70 million American adults?
Everyone agrees there’s a problem. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) says insomnia is the most common sleep problem in adults age 60 and older. The ASA says deep sleep is important for memory consolidation, yet as human beings enter into middle age, the quantity of deep (or slow wave) sleep they achieve is known to decrease significantly.
If you suffer from them, you know. Sleep troubles can be brutal. They can last for days, months and even years; and they can mean a lot more than just having trouble falling asleep. They can mean you: take a long time to fall asleep, wake up many times in the night, wake up early and are unable to get back to sleep, wake up tired, and feel sleepy during the day. The NIH just confirms what the sleep-deprived already know: Often, “being unable to sleep becomes a habit. Some people worry about not sleeping even before they get into bed.” This too may exacerbate an already exhausting situation and make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep.
So sleep seekers try reading, meditation and prayer, darkening their rooms, and even weighted blankets. Before they know it they’re wondering bleary-eyed along the sleep aid aisle in their local pharmacy or department store for over-the-counter medications. Some finally resort to calling the doctor and stepping up their medication game to a prescription sleep aid or better yet: scheduling a sleep study.
Many people desperate for better sleep think that the method and the outcome of a sleep study are pretty straightforward—and limited. Either they have sleep apnea, and are thus prescribed a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) system—the leading therapy for sleep apnea—to keep them breathing during sleep, or they don’t have sleep apnea, and, well, it’s start over with the list above.
But while there are still tens of thousands of people seeking better sleep in the United States, there are also many physicians and scientists trying to help them. And they’re getting better at it all the time.