The Cleveland Clinic

Sleep Disorders: Fact or Fiction?

How much do you know about sleep disorders? Review these statements and learn which are true and which are not.

Health problems such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and depression have no relation to the amount and quality of a person's sleep.

Fiction: More and more scientific studies are showing correlations between poor quality sleep and/or insufficient sleep with a variety of diseases, including hypertension, diabetes and depression. For example, insufficient sleep can impair the body's ability to use insulin, which can lead to the onset of diabetes. In addition, insufficient sleep affects growth hormone secretion that is linked to obesity. As the amount of hormone secretion decreases the chance of weight gain increases.

The older you get, the fewer hours of sleep you need.

Fiction: Sleep experts recommend a total sleep time of seven to nine hours of sleep for the average adult. Sleep patterns change as people age, but the amount of sleep they generally need does not. Older people may wake more frequently through the night and may actually get less nighttime sleep, but their need for sleep is no less than that of younger adults.

Snoring is common and can be harmful.

Fact: Snoring can be a sign of sleep apnea, a sleep disorder that is associated with other medical problems such as cardiovascular disease. Sleep apnea is characterized by episodes of reduced or no airflow throughout the night. People with sleep apnea may remember waking up frequently during the night gasping for breath.

You can "cheat" on the amount of sleep you get.

Fiction: Sleep experts say that most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep each night for optimum performance, health, and safety.

Teens need more sleep than adults.

Fact: Teens need at least 8.5 - 9.25 hours of sleep each night, compared to an average of seven to nine hours each night for most adults. The internal biological clocks of teenagers can keep them awake later in the evening and can interfere with waking up in the morning.

Insomnia is characterized only by difficulty falling asleep.

Fiction: There are four symptoms usually associated with insomnia:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Waking up too early and not being able to get back to sleep
  • Frequent awakenings
  • Waking up feeling unrefreshed

Daytime sleepiness means a person is not getting enough sleep.

Fiction: While excessive daytime sleepiness often occurs if you don't get enough sleep, it can also occur even after a good night's sleep. Such sleepiness can be a sign of an underlying medical condition or sleep disorder such as narcolepsy or sleep apnea.

During sleep, your brain rests.

Fiction: The body rests during sleep. Despite this fact, the brain remains active, gets recharged, and still controls many body functions including breathing. When we sleep, we typically drift between two basic sleep states, Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep and Non-REM (NREM) sleep.

If you wake up in the middle of the night and can't fall back to sleep you should get out of bed and do something.

Fact: Waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to go back to sleep is a symptom of insomnia. Thinking of something relaxing may help to induce sleep. However, most experts agree that if you do not fall back to sleep within 15-20 minutes, you should get out of bed. You should go to another room and engage in a relaxing activity such as listening to music or reading. Don't watch the clock. Return to bed only when you feel tired.

Reviewed by The Sleep Medicine Center at The Cleveland Clinic.




Edited by Michael J. Breus, PhD, WebMD, September 2004.

Portions of this page © Cleveland Clinic 2000-2005


Last Editorial Review: 6/6/2005




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