Dr. Ali Ghahary, a family physician from Vancouver, Canada, recommends adults get anywhere from 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night, while children and teenagers between the ages of 3 to 17 need anywhere from 8 to 10 hours of sleep each night.

Getting a good night’s rest not only leaves you feeling rejuvenated the next day, but it also plays a vital role in many areas of your health. Getting proper sleep can improve heart health and concentration – and studies have also suggested that individuals who are looking to lose weight who get adequate sleep also tend to lose more body fat than those who don’t get enough sleep.

While a lack of sleep can be caused by a number of factors including drinking too much caffeine, watching too much television or spending too much time on the computer late at night, or by noise, there are also certain sleep disorders that can disrupt one’s ability to get a good night’s rest. At least 40% of Canadians and 70% of Americans have some form of a sleep disorder. The most commonly diagnosed sleep disorders include insomnia, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and narcolepsy.

Individuals with insomnia will often complain of difficulty falling asleep or having a hard time staying asleep. You may also wake up several times throughout the night, wake up too early, feel fatigued throughout the day, have an inability to be able to concentrate at work or school. Persons with insomnia should also avoid driving, as the risk of car accidents is higher in those with sleep disorders. In certain cases, insomnia may be treated with medication. In other cases, it is also treated with cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) in order to determine the root cause of the insomnia – stress and anxiety often being one of the causes. Reducing anxiety can significantly improve one’s sleeping habits.

Sleep apnea is a much more serious form of sleep disorder that can cause your breathing to be interrupted. There are two forms of sleep apnea – OSA, also known as Obstructive sleep apnea, and CSA – also known as Central sleep apnea. With OSCA, the airway becomes blocked as a result of the throat’s soft tissue collapsing as we sleep. With CSA, the airway does not become blocked – however, the brain fails to send the signal to the body that tells it to breathe. Some of the most common symptoms of sleep apnea include snoring, choking or gasping for air, and feeling fatigued throughout the day. Sleep apnea can be life threatening, therefore it is important to not ignore the symptoms and speak to your family physician as soon as possible.

To accurately diagnose a sleep disorder, Dr. Ali Ghahary may request that a sleep study be performed. A sleep study is administered by wearing a special device that records your sleeping patterns which is then turned into data to be analyzed. This is a non-invasive procedure and can be done in the comfort of your own home.

For more information on these and other sleep disorders, visit the Canadian Sleep Society website at css-scs.ca.