As more Americans come to grips with the serious nature of their sleep problems, the number of medical facilities treating sleep illness is on the rise.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine has accredited its 2,500th sleep center, setting an all-time high. That’s twice as many as five years ago and five times greater than a decade ago. The first center was accredited in 1977.

In addition, reflecting steadily increased demand for information and treatment, the Academy launched a website at www.sleepeducation.com, where sleep-starved Americans can search for the nearest AASM accredited member sleep centers.

“In general, far too many people accept sleep deprivation and sleepiness as a way of life. They see treatment of sleep illnesses as optional, like elective surgery. Our goal is to change attitudes and make medical treatment available,” said AASM President Sam Fleishman, MD.

“We believe more centers are applying for AASM accreditation as more patients are beginning to understand the consequences of sleep illness. They’re looking for help,” said Dr. Fleishman.

Specially designed to evaluate and treat serious illnesses such as the oxygen-deprivation condition known as sleep apnea, a sleep center is a high-tech medical facility. AASM accredited sleep centers are staffed by board certified sleep medicine physicians and a team of other healthcare professionals.

“Countless studies have connected sleep illnesses with severe health consequences,” said Dr. Fleishman. “If you’re having sleep problems, you don’t need to live this way. And ultimately, some patients can’t live this way.”

Insufficient sleep has become so common in the U.S. that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now consider it an epidemic. Sleep illnesses can be contributing factors to obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure, among others.

As many as 70 million Americans experience sleep problems, says the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research. Insomnia, the most common complaint, is also associated with psychiatric disorders such as severe depression and the associated risk of suicide. Left untreated, insomnia will seriously damage an individual’s health and quality of life.

Besides the effects of sleep illness on an individual’s overall health, sleep deprivation presents a threat to safety. Nearly one in five fatal motor vehicle crashes involved a drowsy driver, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

Several recent studies reported by AASM have highlighted the connection between sleep health and quality-of-life:

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