LabTV: Curious About Sleep Disorders

Ketema Paul
Ketema Paul remembers being wowed at an early age by his cousin’s chemistry set and always feeling drawn to science. This interest followed him to Howard University, Washington, D.C., where he earned an undergraduate degree in biology, and on to Georgia State University, Atlanta for his Ph.D. Now, an associate professor at Atlanta’s Morehouse School of Medicine and the subject of our latest LabTV video, Paul runs his own neuroscience lab studying sleep disorders, which affect at least 60 million Americans as chronic or occasional problems and account for an estimated $16 billion in medical costs each year [1].

Paul’s path to the research bench is an interesting one. The product of a tough neighborhood in Washington, D. C., Paul lost a lot of friends to violence and faced many uncertainties. After college, he moved to Atlanta to try his hand at being a music producer and eventually took a side gig as a disc jockey for the campus radio station at Georgia State. Then one day after his radio show, Paul wandered over to have a look inside a nearby neuroscience lab just for kicks and opened the door on a discussion that would change his life.

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Getting Your Snooze On

Photo of a young boy, sleeping.

Credit: Bijal Trivedi

Have trouble sleeping? If so, you’re not alone. At least 40 million Americans suffer from chronic, long-term sleep disorders, and another 20 million have occasional problems. Many more (including me) just don’t seem to find enough hours in the day and night to get adequate sleep.

Lack of sleep has been linked to a variety of health conditions, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression. Sleep deprivation can also affect alertness and reflexes. And that can be lethal—tired drivers cause an estimated 100,000 motor vehicle accidents and 1,500 vehicle-related deaths each year.

So, how much sleep do you really need? While there’s a lot of individual variation based on age, health status, and genetic factors, average daily sleep needs are:

Babies 16 to 18 hours
Preschoolers 11 to 12 hours
School-age children 10 hours
Teens 9 to 10 hours
Adults 7 to 8 hours

And a special note for expectant parents: women often need several extra hours of sleep during the first three months of pregnancy.

If you’d like to test your sleep I.Q., check out this online quiz.

And visit the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research to learn more about sleep, and what NIH research is doing to better understand its effects on health and behavior.