In spite of the fact that we spend around 1/3 of our life asleep, until recently there has been relatively little attention paid to disorders of sleep. Some 40 million Americans suffer from chronic disorders of sleep and wakefulness. Unfortunately, these often remain unidentified and undiagnosed by patients and physicians alike.
Six out of every 10 adults say they have sleep problems a few nights a week or more.
Daytime sleepiness is severe enough in four out of 10 adults to interfere with their daily activities at least a few days each month.
For 20 percent of adults, that interference occurs a few days a week or more.
The annual direct cost of sleep-related problems in this country is $16 billion, with an additional $50-$100 billion in indirect costs (accidents, litigation, property destruction, hospitalization, and death).
In this country, over 100,000 motor vehicle accidents annually are sleep-related.
Disasters such as Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, Challenger, Bhopal, and Exxon Valdez were officially attributed to errors in judgment induced by sleepiness or fatigue.
Disordered or abnormal sleep is often the cause of major medical problems such as heart disease, strokes and high blood pressure. Failure to achieve a normal restful night of sleep is often the cause of a great deal of misery for patients and their loved ones.
In addition to direct health risks, disordered or abnormal sleep may rob people of the joy of life, making each waking day a chore and a task. Sufferers may feel old before their time, and have a great deal of difficulty in just performing the usual tasks of daily living.
There are, in fact, more than 80 different sleep-related disorders recognized by the medical profession. These can cause symptoms ranging from excessive sleepiness during the day, to abnormal or even violent behaviors at night.
It is with this in mind that the University of Maryland has created a multidisciplinary, comprehensive sleep disorders center for the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders.