Interestingly, lack of sleep can have effects similar to alcohol intoxication. According to the CDC, staying awake for 17 hours straight can be equivalent to having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05%, which is the legal limit for drunk driving in some countries. Going without sleep for 24 hours can be comparable to a BAC of 0.10%, which is higher than the legal limit of 0.08% in the US.
Regrettably, more than one-third of adults fail to get the recommended amount of sleep, which is seven to nine hours per night, according to the National Sleep Foundation. These individuals often experience daytime sleepiness and suffer negative impacts on their mood, mental acuity, and productivity. The CDC reports that over 40% of adults unintentionally fall asleep during the day at least once a month, and an estimated 50 to 70 million Americans have a sleep disorder.
Sleep tests aim to evaluate hormones and neurotransmitters relevant to sleeping, waking, and the circadian rhythm, such as melatonin, cortisol, cortisone, norepinephrine, and serotonin, among others.
Disrupted or insufficient sleep can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, stroke, and infections. It can also negatively affect learning, thinking, daily functioning, and emotional and social interactions. Additionally, lack of sleep has been linked to a higher risk of injuries, falls, and motor vehicle accidents.
Among the 80 known sleep disorders, four common types include:
Insomnia - difficulty falling and staying asleep.
Sleep apnea - characterized by breathing cessation for 10 seconds or more, often accompanied by snoring, with obesity being a common factor.
Restless leg syndrome - associated with leg pains that interfere with sleep, often relieved by rapid leg movements.
Narcolepsy - sudden periods of sleepiness and muscle weakness while awake.
Sleep testing utilizes blood, urine, and saliva samples to assess sleep quality and identify potential sleep disorders.
Alongside sleep tests, a physical examination, medical history, symptom list, sleep diary, lifestyle and diet practices, and additional assessments like micronutrient assessment and sleep studies (polysomnography) can aid in identifying the underlying cause of sleep issues.
Treatment plans for sleep deficiency or sleep disorders are tailored based on the specific cause. For instance, sleep apnea patients may require a CPAP machine as part of their treatment along with a weight loss plan to reduce severity.
Common components of treatment plans can include:
Limiting or discontinuing caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, and other stimulants.
Taking micronutrient supplements that support sleep, such as magnesium, and vitamins D and B6 if insufficient amounts are obtained from the diet.
Following a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, grains, and specific foods containing magnesium (dark green, leafy vegetables, almonds), vitamins D and B6 (salmon, tuna, oranges, cantaloupe), while eliminating processed foods and refined sugars.
Engaging in physical exercise to improve sleep quality and reduce stress and anxiety.
Establishing and maintaining a consistent sleep routine with the same bedtime and wake-up times, reducing device use before bedtime, keeping the room cool and dark.
Overall, addressing sleep issues with a comprehensive approach can lead to improved sleep quality and overall well-being.