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About Sleep and Sleep Disorders

UCSD Sleep Research Lab Videos

Shaq Attacks Sleep Apnea: Shaquille O'Neal and his wife suspect that he has sleep apnea. They come to Atul Malhotra, MD and Pam De Young for an overnight sleep study in which Shaq's moderate obstructive sleep apnea is diagnosed, and treatment discussed.

Sleep Apnea (UCSD TV): Sleep Research Lab faculty member Robert Owens, MD discusses sleep and sleep apnea with host David Granet, MD. 


The Basics: Healthy Sleep

Getting enough sleep is vital for your mental and physical health, safety, and quality of life. Adequate sleep duration and quality help us concentrate, learn, react, make decisions, create memories, and function optimally. Reducing your sleep time by even just 1 hour can negatively affect your thought process and reaction time the following day. Insufficient sleep can be associated with several medical conditions, including depression, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and kidney disease. Not getting enough sleep can also make it harder to fight off infections. People who do not get enough sleep are more likely to feel hungry and eat more fatty and sugary foods and fewer vegetables. Sleep deficiency is also associated with an increased risk of injury and accidents, including motor vehicle accidents. 

Most adults need about 7-9 hours of sleep each day while teenagers need 8-10 hours. When you wake up spontaneously feeling refreshed and able to function well, you likely have had enough sleep. You may be sleep deficient if you have a high likelihood of falling asleep during the day, such as while sitting and reading in the afternoon, or while watching TV. 

Here are a few tips that can help improve your sleep: 

  • Go to bed and wake up the same time every day (regardless if it is the weekend or a weekday).
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes during the day most days of the week, but avoid vigorous exercise 2-3 hours before going to bed.
  • Avoid electronics (TV, computers, smartphones, video games) and bright light at least 60 minutes before bedtime.
  • Avoid caffeine (coffee, soft drinks, tea, chocolate, energy drinks) in the afternoon and evening as the effects of caffeine can last for up to 8 hours or more.
  • Avoid large meals and foods that may upset your stomach close to bedtime, such as fatty, spicy, or fried foods.
  • Avoid alcohol in the evening. It may make you feel drowsy, but it can disrupt your sleep, cause nightmares, and cause you to sleep less deeply and less continuously throughout the night. 
  • If you do not fall asleep within 20-30 minutes, get up and do something relaxing outside of the bedroom and return to bed when you feel tired.

Sleep Disorders

Sleep disorders affect a substantial number of people worldwide and may be increasing in prevalence. It is estimated that more than 25% of the U.S. population has insufficient sleep. Sleep disturbances can be due to many causes, some of the most common causes are described in the links below. 

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)


Content adapted from: American Thoracic Society: Patient Resources. "Healthy Sleep in Adults," "Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Adults," "Insomnia."