Over 70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders, more than 60 percent of them chronic, with many of the cases going undiagnosed. Mostly impacting middle-aged people, especially men, sleep disorders add about $16 billion to national health care costs.
“One of the more common sleep disorders is called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Apnea literally means ‘cessation of breath.’ If you have sleep apnea, your breathing can become very shallow or you may even stop breathing while you are asleep. This state of not breathing can occur up to hundreds of times a night in some people.” said Kris Kuropatkin, RPSGT, RST, Steward Health Care sleep medicine specialist. “Other more common co-morbidities of OSA include hypertension, obesity, type 2 diabetes, congestive heart failure, chronic snoring, and excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS).”
Signs of sleep disorders:
- Waking up frequently during the night
- The sleep itself feeling light, fragmented, or exhausting
- Needing to take something like sleeping pills, a nightcap, or supplements to get to sleep
Evaluate your sleep needs
While sleep requirements vary slightly from person to person, most healthy adults need between six to seven hours of sleep per night to function at their best. The best way to figure out if you’re meeting your sleep needs is to evaluate how you feel as you go about your day. If you’re logging enough hours, you’ll feel energetic and alert all day long.
There are many different strategies to improve sleep issues. Documenting sleep patterns with a sleep log and discussing these issues with the primary care doctor are an important first step to help patients improve and get educated about their sleep.”
Does everyone need eight hours of sleep?
“It is a myth that everyone needs eight hours of sleep. Everyone has different requirements. It is also difficult for a person to know how long they are asleep,” said Robert Conroy, DO, Steward Health Care sleep medicine medical director. “Sleeping is a passive process; you have to relax and cannot will yourself to sleep. Everyone’s internal body clock is different. The environment must be comfortable, dark and quiet. It is more important for your biological clock to wake up at the same time than go to bed at the same time.”
Combating sleeping issues
Kuropatkin cited the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Neurological & Sleep Institute in its use of mechanical therapy and conservative treatments to aid sleep disorders. In mechanical therapy, the focus is to provide initial treatment for people with mild to moderate obstructive sleep apnea, including wearing a mask over their nose and/or mouth. The aim of treatment is to open the airway and restore normal breathing during sleep and to alleviate the bothersome symptoms.
More conservative treatments include:
- Losing weight — even a 10 percent weight loss can help
- Avoiding the use of alcohol and sleeping pills, which may collapse the airway during sleep
- Using pillows to sleep in a side position if breathing pauses occur only when they sleep on their backs
- Trying nasal sprays to reduce snoring and improve airflow for individuals with sinus problems or nasal congestion
So, is there good sleep in sight?
“Educating people on resources for sleep disorders, such as sleep clinics and practicing sleep hygiene, can help,” said Conroy. “Behavioral treatments for insomnia are now available with sleep psychologists or on the internet. Sleep medications are improving to treat specific issues, such as falling asleep or maintaining sleep. Finally, sleep apnea, which is still under-diagnosed, can be easily diagnosed and treated with surgery, oral appliances, weight loss.”
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