As chronic diseases have assumed an increasingly common role in premature death and illness, interest in the role of sleep health in the development and management of chronic diseases has grown.

Getting quality sleep is one of the best things you can do for your health.

Insufficient sleep has been linked to the development and management of a number of chronic diseases and conditions, including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression.

Although the amount of sleep you get each day is important, other aspects of your sleep also contribute to your health and well-being. Good sleep quality is also essential. Signs of poor sleep quality include not feeling rested even after getting enough sleep, repeatedly waking up during the night, and experiencing symptoms of sleep disorders (such as snoring or gasping for air). Improving sleep quality may be helped by better sleep habits or being diagnosed and treated for any sleep disorder you may have.

Understanding how lack of sleep affects health can allow you to make healthier decisions for you, and better advise your patients.

  • Sleeping the number of recommended hours on a regular basis is associated with better health outcomes including: improved attention, behaviour, learning, memory, emotional regulation, quality of life, and mental and physical health.
  • Regularly sleeping fewer than the number of recommended hours is associated with attention, behaviour, and learning problems. Insufficient sleep also increases the risk of accidents, injuries, hypertension, obesity, diabetes, and depression. Insufficient sleep in teenagers is associated with increased risk of self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and suicide attempts.
  • Regularly sleeping more than the recommended hours may be associated with adverse health outcomes such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and mental health problems.

KEY SLEEP DISORDERS

  • INSOMNIA is characterised by an inability to initiate or maintain sleep. It may also take the form of early morning awakening in which the individual awakens several hours early and is unable to resume sleeping. Difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep may often manifest itself as excessive daytime sleepiness, which characteristically results in functional impairment throughout the day.
  • NARCOLEPSY: Excessive daytime sleepiness (including episodes of irresistible sleepiness) combined with sudden muscle weakness are the hallmark signs of narcolepsy. The sudden muscle weakness seen in narcolepsy may be elicited by strong emotion or surprise. Episodes of narcolepsy have been described as “sleep attacks” and may occur in unusual circumstances, such as walking and other forms of physical activity.
  • RESTLESS LEGS SYNDROME is characterised by an unpleasant “creeping” sensation, often feeling like it is originating in the lower legs, but often associated with aches and pains throughout the legs. This often causes difficulty initiating sleep and is relieved by movement of the leg, such as walking or kicking.
  • SLEEP APNOEA: Snoring may be more than just an annoying habit – it may be a sign of sleep apnoea. Persons with sleep apnoea characteristically make periodic gasping or “snorting” noises, during which their sleep is momentarily interrupted. Those with sleep apnoea may also experience excessive daytime sleepiness, as their sleep is commonly interrupted and may not feel restorative.