An estimated 50-70 million adults in the United States have a sleep or wakefulness disorder such as sleep apnea or insomnia, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Research shows that insufficient sleep puts individuals at higher risk of both physical and mental health issues, including hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression and even cancer.
But before you go ahead and assume that you have a sleep disorder, one health psychologist recommends asking yourself this seemingly obvious question: “Am I giving myself enough opportunity to sleep?”
In a recent article published in the Huffington Post, Mark S. Aloia, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Medicine at National Jewish Health in Denver, CO and Senior Director of Global Clinical Research for Philips Healthcare, explains that many individuals who have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep simply aren’t giving themselves enough time to get the rest their bodies need. One potential solution, according to Dr. Aloia, is to try to increase your sleep time.
“If you intend to try extending your sleep period, consider giving yourself a chance to sleep longer for a full week,” writes Dr. Aloia. “My best advice is to try to sleep in for 3-4 consecutive days. Start on the weekend to make this easier. Going to bed earlier doesn’t always work, even if you are tired. Your body clock might be programmed in such a way that keeps you from falling asleep quickly, but it might let you sleep in longer.”
For some individuals, this approach will work: they’ll get more rest and the symptoms of insufficient sleep will begin to fade. Alas, not everyone will be that fortunate, but at the very least they’ll have gained some better insight into the sleep-related problem(s) affecting them.
“You might find that you have trouble falling asleep now,” writes Dr. Aloia. “In this case, you may have uncovered insomnia, or you may simply not need that much sleep. If you get much more sleep and still feel unrested in the morning, or your body is sleeping as much as it can but it is still not restful sleep, consider seeking the help of a healthcare professional. You may have an underlying sleep disorder.”
It’s also important to note that if you’re among the 37 million adults who snore on a regular basis, there’s a chance that you may have obstructive sleep apnea, in which case you should also seek the help of a healthcare professional.