Sleep disorders medicine has become an important clinical and research discipline for two reasons. The first is the documentation of sleep-wake complaints. A recent national survey found that one-third of the American population reported some degree of insomnia, with 17% of the population considering their insomnia serious. In addition, up to 6% of the population complain of excessive sleepiness during the day. The second and more immediate impetus to sleep disorders medicine was the discovery of sleep-specific pathologies. That is, individuals who show normal physiological functioning during the neural state of wake can show significant pathology when in one of the two neural states of sleep (REM, or rapid eye movement, and NREM, or non-REM). In addition, in perfectly healthy individuals, control of basic physiological functions such as respiratory drive, cardiac rhythm, and thermoregulation have different laws during wake and sleep. In fact, control of these functions varies within the two neural states that constitute sleep.
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