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Sleepless in America

Insomnia
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WebMD Feature

Wake up, America! Most of you are not getting enough sleep. According to a recent survey by the National Sleep Foundation, 40 percent of adults are so sleepy during the day it interferes with their daily activities; 62 percent reported feeling drowsy while driving; and 27 percent dozed off while driving during the past year.

And it's not just the big people who aren't meeting their nightly sleep requirements: Sixty percent of children under the age of 18 complained of daytime tiredness last year, and 15 percent reported falling asleep at school.

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The Cost of Sleep Deprivation

In the worst cases, lack of sleep -- which impairs functions such as memory, reaction time, and alertness -- can have serious, even deadly results. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drowsy drivers cause at least 100,000 crashes annually. For others, sleepiness doesn't have such dire consequences, but it does make its mark: Tired people aren't as productive at work or school, or as effective at parenting and other interpersonal relationships. They're also at risk for increased health problems. A recent study cited by the National Sleep Foundation showed that people with chronic insomnia are more at risk for several kinds of psychiatric problems and make greater use of healthcare services.

Why Are Americans So Sleepy?

Kierstan Boyd of the National Sleep Foundation says busy lives and a failure to appreciate the importance of sleep are part of the problem. "People aren't making sleep a priority. They try to cram too much into their days. They're getting up earlier and doing more before going to work or staying up later."

Another problem, says Boyd, is sleep disruption, or frequent waking during the night. The National Center on Sleep Disorders Research estimates that as many as 70 million Americans may suffer from disruptive sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea (pauses in breathing or gasping for air that wakes you), restless legs, or insomnia. Stress, medication, and environment (such as room temperature and noise level) also play a big part in determining your sleep success.

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