You probably know that it's important to get plenty of sleep each night, but do you realize just how serious some sleep disorders can be?

The answer to that question for most people is no, according to a new study that found a majority of people realize just how important it is to get enough sleep, but only half think that sleep disorders are a serious health hazard.

And what's even worse is that many medical professionals know little about the disease and have trouble diagnosing it.

The new survey, which was conducted by Harris Interactive and commissioned by Jazz Pharmaceuticals, aimed at seeing what people think about narcolepsy and how much they actually know about the disease.

The study was developed by representatives from the Narcolepsy Network, the National Sleep Foundation, and Wake Up Narcolepsy. Results are based on an online survey of about 1,000 adults, roughly 300 primary care physicians, and around 100 sleep specialists.

Narcolepsy is a chronic brain disorder in which the brain is unable to regulate normal sleeping cycles. People who suffer from the disease can be extremely tired during the day, fall asleep uncontrollably, or wake up often during the night.

All of these effects can have extremely negative effects on all aspects of a person's life, from their emotional and physical well-being to their social and professional livelihoods.

According to the president of the Narcolepsy Network, narcolepsy can disrupt education, ruin job opportunities, and get in the way of personal responsibilities for people who suffer from the disease - all because it's not considered among other well-known diseases.

Some key findings of the study include:

  • 70 percent of respondents know what narcolepsy is, less than several diseases such as diabetes and schizophrenia.
  • Only 7 percent know a lot about the disease.
  • 50 percent of respondents think narcolepsy can negatively impact your overall health.
  • 55 percent of people think narcolepsy is a serious condition.
  • 75 percent of physicians and sleep specialists think narcolepsy is very serious while 82 percent consider it to be extremely serious.
  • 24 percent of physicians and 62 percent of specialists claim to know a lot of information about the disease.
  • 9 percent of physicians are comfortable with diagnosing someone with narcolepsy, while 42 percent of sleep specialists are comfortable with diagnosing the disease and 22 percent are not comfortable making a diagnosis.
  • Only 22 percent of specialists can identify its five major symptoms.
  • Less than half of the 125,000 to 200,000 people with narcolepsy have been properly diagnosed.

Given these results, it's important to become knowledgeable about narcolepsy, including the warning signs and effects of the disease. If you think you might be suffering from narcolepsy, you should pay attention to your symptoms and bring it up to your doctor.

The five major symptoms are being extremely tired during the day, suddenly losing a lot of muscle tone, being paralyzed during sleep, hallucinating while transitioning to or from sleep and disruptive sleep.

Anyone who is suffering from these sleep disorder symptoms - or any others - should monitor and record how they feel and what they're suffering from and seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Nancy Goebel writes about an array of lifestyle topics, including the importance of recognizing sleep disorder symptoms and getting properly diagnosed and treated.