To sleep: perchance to dream ...

by Arthur Nead

"Sleep is the best medicine," says the old proverb. But many adults don't benefit enough from sleep, with as many as 60 percent reporting sleep problems at least several nights a week.

Approximately 40 million Americans suffer from , and the consequences can be serious, including accidents while working or driving. Untreated long-term problems can lead to heart disease, mood disorders, weight gain and shortened life spans.

"Sleep researchers understand that sleep is not just a luxury; it's extremely important," says Dr. Supat Thammastiboon, medical director of the Tulane Comprehensive Sleep Center at Tulane Medical Center, which provides clinical care for sleep disorder patients.

"Our time asleep is when we repair a lot of our systems," says Thammastiboon, who directs the Tulane University School of Medicine's fellowship program.

Sleep deprivation can be caused by social or behavioral factors, including shift work schedules and college late-night study patterns, or it can be the result of health issues.

"If a person is sleep-deprived because their lifestyle restricts their sleep, they just have to change their behavior," says Thammastiboon. "But if they are sleep-deprived because of health problems, we treat them medically."

One such problem is sleep apnea, caused by obstruction of breathing passages. Snoring, interruption of sleep and fatigue when awake are among its symptoms. Insomnia and also keep some people from achieving deep, restful sleep.

"There are two levels of lighter sleep, and then there is level three, the deepest sleep," says Thammasitboon. "During deep sleep your brain is working, abstracting and correlating new knowledge with previous knowledge."

There are numerous cases of researchers, writers or musicians waking from deep sleep with sudden inspiration. Violinist Giuseppe Tartini dreamed the devil played the violin for him. He awoke and immediately wrote out the virtuoso composition known as "The Devil's Trill."

Related Stories

Sleep tips for summer nights

Jul 08, 2013

(HealthDay)—Those extra hours of daylight in the summer contribute to sleep problems experienced by many Americans, experts say.

Recommended for you

Sleep-disordered breathing linked to functional decline

Dec 06, 2014

(HealthDay)—For older women, sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) is associated with functional decline, according to a study published in the November issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Sleep apnea linked to poor aerobic fitness

Nov 24, 2014

People with moderate to severe obstructive sleep apnea may have an intrinsic inability to burn high amounts of oxygen during strenuous aerobic exercise, according to a new study led by researchers at University ...

Sleep apnea may contribute to kidney disease progression

Nov 14, 2014

Sleep apnea may accelerate kidney function decline in diabetic patients with kidney disease, according to a study that will be presented at ASN Kidney Week 2014 November 11-16 at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.