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Recognizing Sleep Disorders in a Primary Care Setting

Paul P. Doghramji, MD

Published: December 15, 2004

Article Abstract

As many as one third of the general population suffers from some form of sleep disorder. Althoughsleep disorders are widespread in society, few patients present with overt sleep complaints; theyinstead present with symptoms of fatigue, excessive sleepiness, and impaired waking function. Untreatedsleep disorders, particularly insomnia, can lead to potentially life-threatening automobilecrashes and industrial accidents. In addition, poor motor, mental, and cognitive function at home,work, and school can negatively impact a patient’s quality of life. Therefore, physicians must maintaina high index of suspicion for sleep disorders whenever they see patients, and they must ask sleep-relatedquestions during office visits for acute conditions, chronic conditions, and annual physicalexaminations. Today’s “24/7” society experiences sleep disorders in ever-increasing numbers, andpeople who work shifts are at risk for developing circadian rhythm sleep disorder, particularly shiftwork sleep disorder. Physicians must engage their patients in a discussion of their occupations andsleeping habits in order to detect and treat sleep disorders.

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