The importance of sleep, and why your health depends on getting enough of it

Busy school or work schedules. After-work activities or evening meetings. Round-the-clock access to technology.

It’s abundantly clear to most Americans that we are a sleep-deprived nation. But few of us fully understand the negative impact that lack of sleep is having on our overall health and well-being.

Lawrence Memorial Hospital is a major sponsor of WellCommons.

Good health and good sleep go together. For example, a link has been drawn between insufficient sleep and a number of chronic health diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, obesity and depression. In addition, lack of sleep can make it harder to perform daily tasks — or can cause more immediate, disastrous consequences, such as nodding off while driving.

Many factors can affect sleep, including chronic pain, stress and even dental issues such as excessively grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw.

More information about sleep disorders, help

• Lawrence Memorial Hospital is sponsoring a free seminar focusing on sleep disorders from 6 to 8 p.m. June 20 in the hospital auditorium. Seating is limited, so register online at or call Connect Care at 785-505-5800.

• Steven Hull, MD, who is medical director at the LMH Sleep Center, and James Otten, DDS, of James Otten Dentistry, will discuss the correlation between good health and good sleep. They will also review many of the conditions and treatment options for people with sleep disorders.

James Otten, DDS

In hopes of helping us get a better night’s sleep, Steven Hull, MD, who is medical director at the LMH Sleep Center, and James Otten, DDS, of James Otten Dentistry, will talk about common sleep disorders at a free educational event on June 20 at Lawrence Memorial Hospital.

Steven Hull, M.D.

In addition to social and environmental factors — such as overuse of technology or emotional stress — and physical conditions such as chronic pain, there are more than 80 types of sleep disorders. Here is a quick look at four of the most common:

• People who suffer from insomnia have difficulty falling or staying asleep. About 50 percent of adults experience occasional bouts of insomnia, and 1 in 10 people suffer from chronic insomnia. It can occur by itself or be associated with a medical or psychiatric condition.

• Sleep apnea occurs when a person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep. Sleep apnea can occur when a person’s airway is blocked, often when the soft tissue at the back of their throat collapses. That is called obstructive sleep apnea. The other type, which is called common sleep apnea, occurs when a sleeper’s brain does not “tell” his or her body to breathe.

• People with restless leg syndrome have an overwhelming urge to move their legs. That can occur when they are lying down or sitting for an extended amount of time. A person with RLS often wants to shake his or her legs to relieve the painful sensation.

• A person who has narcolepsy, which is a neurological disorder, has difficulty controlling when they fall asleep. For someone with narcolepsy, sudden, uncontrollable periods of falling asleep can occur at any time and during any type of activity.

— Amy Northrop is physician liaison manager at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, a major sponsor of WellCommons. She can be reached at