SLEEP AWARENESS: Number of diagnosed sleep disorders on the rise

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) – Many are feeling the effects of Daylight Saving Time and while losing an hour may not seem like much, sleep experts say people aren't getting enough sleep to begin with as the number of diagnosed sleep disorders is on the rise.

It’s National Sleep Awareness Week and Kelly Schmidt, HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital Clinical Sleep Educator says sleep is just as important as food, water, and exercise. “If we don't sleep enough now, it actually can lead to sleep disorders and it can also lead to earlier death," says Schmidt.

Schmidt works at Oakleaf Clinic’s sleep lab, where patients are treated for a variety of sleep disorders. "The sleep disorders that we see mainly here are Obstructive Sleep Apnea,” says Schmidt. As the number of diagnosed sleep disorders is on the rise, the range for what's considered a sleep disorder has grown throughout the years.

There are now 84 identified types of sleep disorders, meaning many people may be experiencing one and not even know it. Disorders ranging from common Sleep Apnea, Insomnia, and Narcolepsy, to abnormal like sleep eating, sleep walking, sleep talking, and REM Behavior Disorder where people act out their dreams.

Schmidt says there are many myths about sleeping such as Insomnia simply meaning you can’t sleep. She says Insomnia is a sleep disorder that could be a side effect of stress, depression, or a prescribed medication. "Insomnia just doesn’t happen, there's a reason for it so we need to find that reason," says Schmidt.

There are several tips for more restful sleep. Schmidt suggests limiting eating and caffeine intake to six hours before bed. She also suggests decreasing electronic screen time as you get closer to going to bed as these factors can fragment sleep quality.

She also says people should underestimate the power of napping. It can give you a burst of energy, however napping after 3pm isn’t recommended as it can hinder your sleep that night. Schmidt also says naps should be limited to a time period of 30 minutes to an hour.

If you're having any sleep issues, it’s suggested that you see a doctor. They can determine if you need a sleep specialist, who will decide if a sleep study should be conducted.

Sleep restores the immune system and not getting enough can lead to serious health concerns.

HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital in Eau Claire offers a free online assessment for sleep awareness that can help determine individual sleep disorder risks.

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