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story.lead_photo.caption Artificial blue light from electronics can reduce the body's release of melatonin, a hormone that induces sleep, as illustrated in this self-portrait. Photo by Hunt Mercier / Texarkana Gazette.

A good night's sleep is an important part of a healthy lifestyle.

There are approximately 50 to 70 million adults in the United States dealing with a sleep disorder and it could have a serious impact on their health.

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"The health issues you're looking at include heart problems such as congestive heart failure. It can increase the risk of stroke and heart attack. Sleep disorders can affect some people's blood sugar making diabetes harder to control," said Chuck Fricks, clinical coordinator at the CHRISTUS St. Michael Sleep Disorders Center. "We see diabetics who are doing everything they're suppose to do — diet, medication and they still have problems with morning fasting blood sugar. We start seeing medical conditions pile up as the person gets older."

Obstructive sleep apnea is one of the most common disorders. It affects approximately 25 million adults in the United States, according to the American Sleep Association.

Symptoms of sleep apnea include snoring loudly, sleepiness or lethargy while awake, sleepiness when driving, forgetfulness, moodiness, waking up gasping or choking and headaches upon waking.

"You should ask yourself if you feel tired all the time and feel like you don't have enough energy. What do you do when you get home from work? Fall straight to sleep. Do you get sleepy while driving? If so you should speak to your doctor," Fricks said.

Drowsy driving is a serious problem and is responsible for 1,550 fatalities and 40,000 nonfatal injuries annually in the U.S., according to ASA.

"I've had patients in the sleep lab that have had multiple vehicle accidents," he said.

A CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine is how sleep apnea is usually treated. It's a treatment that helps reduce daytime sleepiness, lowers blood pressure and helps improve heart health.

Chronic lack of sleep isn't always due to a disorder. Sometimes it's based on personal choices to stay up late enjoying an activity knowing the alarm clock is still going to go off early in the morning.

"Your body keeps up with how much sleep you miss a night. It's called a sleep debt. You may make up for some of it by sleeping longer on the weekends but you never make up for all of it. Establish a bedtime routine and stick with it. You want to go to be at the same time and get up at the same time. That's good sleep hygiene for everybody," Fricks said.

Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep a night, according to the ASA.

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