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About 50 million people in the U.S. are affected by chronic sleep problems and which can affect their careers, their safety and their health.

The majority of American adults do not get adequate sleep needed for good health, according to the National Sleep Foundation.  Dr. Joseph Henkle, professor of pulmonary medicine at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, says continually getting less sleep than is needed can cause significant consequences.

SOUND BITE: “You can start to lose your focus, can’t concentrate quite as well, and ultimately that may affect performance at home or on the job.  . . . Lack of sleep and sleepiness can lead to accidents on the job, decreased levels of performance in skilled positions.  And so there is a significant cost that may come with insufficient sleep.”

Dr. Henkle says medical problems resulting from chronic sleep loss can include putting individuals at higher risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and changes in metabolism.   Seven to nine hours of sleep per day is recommended for most adults.  He explains why people do not get enough sleep.

SOUND BITE:    “I think a lot has to do with the society we live in.  Staying busy is considered to be important to many people.  And so they try to jam in a lot of things into their day and sleep suffers as a consequence of that – very busy schedules.  The pervasive presence of technology, computers, TVs, there’s a lot of things to entertain us and keep us awake.”

Sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea also can prevent people from getting quality sleep.  These conditions are treatable, so if someone in your family has sleep problems, they should see a primary care physician for evaluation and possible treatment.   If the problem is severe, they may be referred to a sleep specialist.

This is Ruth Slottag at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield.