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Am I Getting Enough Sleep?

How can I tell the difference between a few nights of un-refreshing sleep and a more serious sleep problem?

A few nights of un-refreshing sleep is generally referred to as situational insomnia. This usually occurs after a major life event, such as the death of loved one, a change in job status, or even a newly discovered medical illness. The hallmark is that after a few days, sleep tends to regulate itself, and symptoms are self-limited. Once symptoms have lasted for more than a few weeks, a search for an underlying medical condition or sleep disorder is generally warranted.

I know I get about seven to eight hours of sleep a night, yet wake up feeling tired. Why? Am I getting too much sleep?

Feeling sleepy and tired after a good night’s sleep suggests a problem with the quality of sleep. Factors to consider include the bedroom and sleep environment, including the temperature, noise level, and other potential distractions. Sleep disordered breathing, or sleep apnea, is a common condition that will lead to excessive sleepiness despite a reasonable nocturnal sleep time. Narcolepsy is a medical condition where the brain does not understand the difference between a sleep state and an awake state. This condition, though rare, is often well managed with medications. Frequent leg jerks also can lead to un-refreshing sleep. Parasomnias, such as sleep terror and sleep walking, also can cause tiredness during the day.

While “normal sleep” is generally between seven and eight hours, there are some people that need less and some that need more. If sleepiness is better on the weekends or on vacation, when one is left to sleep uninterrupted, this maybe a clue that you need more than just seven or eight hours of sleep.

Dr. Shiraz Daud is a board-certified pulmonologist on staff at Missouri Baptist Medical Center. He received his medical degree from the University of Missouri-School of Medicine, Kansas City. He completed a combined internship/residency in internal medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and a fellowship in pulmonary and critical care medicine at Washington University School of Medicine.

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