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Do you have a sleep disorder?

The National Sleep Foundation estimates that nearly 40 million Americans sufffer from some kind of sleep disorder. If you have problems sleeping, or if you feel tired most days of the week, your healthcare provider may order a sleep study for you.

A sleep disorder is a condition that abnormally affects the quality, duration, or behavior of a person's sleep. Sleep disorders fall into three general categories: primary sleep disorders, secondary sleep disorders, and other sleep disorders.

What to expect at your sleep study

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  • Sleep Disorders
  • Signs / Symptoms
  • Treatments
  • Myths & Facts

What is a sleep study?

A sleep study can help diagnose sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and sleep-related movement disorder.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type of sleep apnea. Typically occurring in people who snore, sleep apnea results from obstruction of the upper airway, most often at the base of the tongue. Sleep apnea can cause numerous arousals from sleep during the night, resulting in excessive fatigue or sleepiness during the day.

Insomnia is defined as short and poor quality sleep that affects your functioning during the day. A variety of psychological and physiological factors can cause insomnia. The disorder may be worsened by consuming alcohol, stimulants such as caffeine or amphetamines, or by certain drugs or medications.

Movement Disorders
Periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD) and restless leg syndrome (RLS) are two common movement disorders. PLMD involves repetitive movements of the arms, legs, or both during sleep. RLS involves an irresistible urge to move and affects people while they are awake.

What are the signs and symptoms of the condition?

Each sleep disorder has its own characteristic symptoms. Generally, some of the warning symptoms include:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Loud snoring
  • Irritability at work or home
  • Obesity
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Awakening suddenly, gasping for air or choking
  • Morning headaches
  • Falling asleep while driving or working
  • Dozing off while watching TV, reading, driving, or other daily activities
  • Hypertension
  • Depression
  • Kicking or twitching movements while asleep
  • Restless limb movements

What is the most common sleep disorder?

Sleep apnea is the most common sleep disorder. An estimated 10 percent of the adult population snores. For the most part, snoring has no serious medical consequences. But for an estimated five in 100 people snoring is the first indication of a potentially life-threatening disorder called obstructive sleep apnea.

The typical sleep apnea patient is an overweight, middle-aged man with extremely loud, habitual snoring. People with sleep apnea don't breath properly during sleep and, as a result, don't get enough oxygen. This result sin extremely poor quality sleep. Other common sleep disorders include: insomnia, restless limb movements, narcolepsy and night terrors.

Treatment of sleep disorders

There are many treatment options available for those diagnosed with a sleep disorder. Successful treatment can prevent or reverse potential lifethreatening complications and improve quality of life. The benefits of proper treatment include:

• Improved feeling of well-being
• Improved work performance
• Improved health
• Improved memory
• Decreased risks for heart problems, high blood pressure, and stroke

One of the most highly effective treatments for sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) via a mask worn over the nose during sleep. Pressure from an air compressor sends air through the nasal passages and into the airway. This pressure holds the airway open and allows the person to breathe normally.

Oral devices are another option for the treatment of sleep apnea. These are designed to open the airway by bringing the jaw, tongue, and soft palate forward. Surgical procedures may help in removing excess tissue from the throat.

Dangers of an untreated sleep disorder:

  • High blood pressure
  • Serious heart conditions
  • Stroke
  • Depression
  • Impotence
  • Memory loss
  • Increased motor vehicle or work accidents

There are many common myths about sleep. The National Sleep Foundation took a look at six common myths and the facts that dispel them.

Myth #1: Sleep is not important. I can just get by on a few hours.

Fact: Sleep is vital to our health and well-being, and is just as important as diet and exercise. Although individual needs may vary, adults typically need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. Getting enough sleep may also be a critical factor in a person’s weight as well as energy and productivity levels.

Each time you don't get enough sleep, you add to your “sleep debt,” or accumulated sleep loss. You may not be able to catch up on lost sleep. As a result, your sleep debt may make you feel sleepier and less alert at times.

Myth #2: People who don’t have the usual 9-5 work schedule shouldn’t have too much trouble falling asleep when their work shift ends.

Fact: An estimated 15 percent of the nation’s work force are shift workers, who are often at work when their internal body clocks tell them its time to sleep. Sleep producing hormones such as melatonin are produced at night, when shift workers must be fully awake and alert.
But when its time for them to sleep, their irregular schedule works against their body clock, and they may find it difficult to get a full 7-9 hours of sleep.

Despite the challenges, shift workers need just as much sleep as those who work traditional hours, though they are at an increased risk for sleepiness as well as the common health risks that come with insufficient sleep such as high blood pressure and heart problems.

Myth #3: Insomnia is not a serious medical condition and has no consequences.

Fact: Insomnia can be a serious medical condition characterized by difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep (waking up often during the night and having trouble going back to sleep), waking up too early in the morning or feeling tired upon waking. Several consequences of insomnia are decreased work performance, depression or mood changes and increased risk of automotive crashes.

Myth #4: Watching TV in my bedroom and working on my laptop in bed helps me wind down and fall asleep.

Fact: Doing work, watching TV and using the computer, both close to bedtime and especially in the bedroom, hinders quality sleep. Violent shows, news reports and stories before bedtime can be agitating. The sleep environment should be used only for sleep and sex

Myth #5: Turning up the radio, opening the window, or turning on the air conditioner in the car are effective ways to stay awake when driving.

Fact: These “aids” don’t work. They are ineffective and can be dangerous to anyone who is driving while feeling drowsy or sleepy, as well as their passengers and others on the road. If you’re feeling tired while driving, pull off the road in a safe rest area and take a nap for l5-45 minutes. Caffeinated beverages can help overcome drowsiness for a short period of time, however, it takes about 30 minutes before the effects are felt. The best prevention for drowsy driving is a good night’s sleep before your trip.

Myth #6: Alcohol or wine will help me fall asleep faster.

Fact: Some people feel that alcohol is a sleep aid. However, while alcohol may calm you and speed the onset of sleep, it actually increases the number of times you awaken during the night. If you are taking a sleep medication, it should not be used with alcohol or other drugs.

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