Contact: Matt Novak
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Dunedin, FL -- A good night’s sleep can be the latest round in the battle of the sexes and at first glance, the outcome appears to be a tie. While men get slightly less sleep than women during the week (6.7 hours/night vs. 7.0 hours/night), men have fewer sleep problems, particularly insomnia, according to recent Sleep in America polls conducted annually by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF). The Foundation’s 2002 poll, for example, shows that 63 percent of adult women report frequent symptoms of insomnia compared to 54 percent of men. In fact, the most disruptive insomnia symptom for women is waking a lot during the night, a problem reported by two out of five respondents.
Snoring is probably the number one dream-buster. More than one-third of America’s adults say they snore frequently, according to NSF’s polls. But while less than one-third of the women (31%) polled reported the problem, more than two out of five men (42%) said they snored frequently. Loud snoring can disrupt a bed partner’s sleep, (as well as the sleep of the snorer); however, it can also be a warning sign for a serious and even life-threatening sleep disorder called sleep apnea, characterized by brief but numerous involuntary breathing pauses during sleep. Untreated, sleep apnea can lead to life threatening diseases such as heart disease, hypertension and stroke.
“Many people treat their bed partner’s snoring as an annoyance, which it certainly can be. But they must wake up to the fact that it can also be a symptom of a serious sleep disorder that when diagnosed, can be treated,” said Lisa Whims-Squires, D.O., medical director of the Mease Hospitals Sleep Disorders Centers.
Insomnia and sleep apnea are distinctly different sleep disorders. Symptoms of insomnia include difficulty falling asleep, waking too early and not getting back to sleep, and waking feeling unrefreshed. There are many causes of insomnia, and there are a number of treatment options available. It is important to discuss any of these symptoms with your physician.
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Sleep apnea is characterized by pauses in breathing that prevent air from flowing into or out of a sleeping person’s airways. Large body mass and neck size can contribute to the sleep disorder, but being thin does not preclude a diagnosis of sleep apnea. While it occurs in all age groups and among men and women, sleep apnea was once thought to be mostly prevalent in middle-aged and older men. However, a recent study of professional football players reported in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that sleep apnea is widespread and often goes undetected in young, physically fit men.
The breathing pauses that are characteristic of sleep apnea usually disrupt sleep, but people with undiagnosed sleep apnea are often unaware of the disruptions to their sleep. Daytime sleepiness is often, though not always, a result, which can lead to other problems such as drowsy driving. Men are more likely to drive while drowsy, according to NSF polls. More than one-half of adult men admit to driving drowsy (56% vs. 45%), and they are almost twice as likely to fall asleep at the wheel than women (22% vs. 12%).
As Father’s Day approaches, and many families plan a day to dote on dad, Mease Hospitals Sleep Disorders Centers joins NSF in urging everyone to think about dad’s sleep. Encourage him to get a minimum of seven hours of sleep every night, and if he snores and/or complains about being sleepy during the day, encourage him to discuss these symptoms with his health care provider. Your concern can be a lifesaver.
The National Sleep Foundation is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to improving public health and safety by achieving greater understanding of sleep and sleep disorders, and by supporting education, sleep-related research, and advocacy. NSF is based in Washington, DC. For more information, visit www.sleepfoundation.org.
The Mease Hospitals Sleep Disorders Centers are a member of the National Sleep Foundation, working with NSF as a Community Sleep Awareness Partner®.