With each passing year there is new research showing the sleep disorders are more prevalent and harmful than previously thought. However, we as individuals often overlook the signs and symptoms of an underlying condition that is both serious and treatable. Being aware of the common sleep conditions can help you know when to seek out medical advice and treatment to improve your sleep health.
Sufferers of obstructive sleep apnea experience a partial or complete interruption of breathing during sleep. This is caused by repeated collapse of the upper airway while sleeping. People with this condition are often tired during the day. They may also snore, wake up gasping or choking, or awake with a headache. 17% of the general population is thought to have OSA, but the prevalence is higher in men, in older people, and in those who are overweight or obese. A combination of these factors could see your chance of developing OSA reach as high as 49%.
Those with untreated OSA risk developing cardiovascular disease like heart attack, metabolic disease like diabetes, stroke, and depression. There are also the complications of being overly tired, such as decreased ability to learn and concentrate, poor performance at work, and increased chance of a motor vehicle accident.
OSA is typically diagnosed with a sleep study, which you can do at home or in a sleep lab. The best first step is to speak to your GP who can help organize the sleep study or send you to a specialist sleep physician.
If your study shows that you do have OSA, there are a number of treatment options. More mild forms of the condition can be managed by lifestyle modifications like weight loss and smoking cessation, or by a dental device called a Mandibular Advancement Splint, which pushes the jaw forward to help open the airway at night. The most effective treatment is a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, or CPAP machine. This works by gently blowing pressurized air into your upper airway to prevent collapse. To learn more about CPAP, click here.
Like obstructive sleep apnea, CSA causes a disruption of breathing during sleep. However, in this condition the route cause is the interruption of the brain signals that control the muscles of breathing. In additional to the fatigue that can accompany any form of sleep apnea, CSA sufferers can also wake up feeling breathless, feel short of breath while lying down (orthopnea), or have chest pain. Other medical conditions like heart failure, cardiac arrhythmia and stroke can all contribute to the development of CSA. Central sleep apnea can then cause further cardiovascular problems.
Central sleep apnea can be diagnosed with an in lab sleep study. Specialist physician involvement is important, and CSA patients should see both a cardiologist and a sleep physician to make sure their heart and sleep problems are well managed. Treatment often involves the use of a positive pressure machine like CPAP, a ventilator like bi-level positive airway pressure (BPAP), or a more complex device like Adaptive Seroventilation (ASV).
Narcolepsy is a condition characterized by the uncontrollable urge to sleep during the day. While the exact cause is unknown, it is thought that the underproduction of certain brain chemicals (like hypocretin) are responsible for the disorder. Apart from attacks of sleepiness, sufferers can also experience a loss of voluntary muscle tone (cataplexy) and hallucinations that would only occur in health people as they were transitioning from wakefulness to sleep (hypnagogic hallucinations).
You are at higher risk of developing narcolepsy if you have a family history of the condition of if you have had brain injuries in the past. The chances of developing the disorder also increase with age. Sufferers often deal with personal and professional issues, including poor work performance, relationship problems, or stigma due to poor understanding of the disease. You are also at higher risk of injury when you have an episode.
Narcolepsy is diagnosed by a special type of sleep study called a Multiple Sleep Latency Test, or MSLT. This is carried out during the day and looks at how quickly you fall asleep. All patients with narcolepsy should be managed by a specialist sleep physician.
People with restless leg syndrome feel a discomfort in their lower limbs that is only relieved by moving their legs. They will move their legs around more during the transition from wakefulness to sleep and throughout the night. This causes a disruption of sleep, which leads to excessive daytime fatigue.
You are more likely to develop restless leg syndrome if you have a family history of the condition, or if you have another medical problem that effects the nervous system (e.g. peripheral neuropathy that can accompany diabetes).
You will most likely receive your diagnoses based on your description of your symptoms and a physical examination, although you may be asked to do an in-lab sleep study.
There are some medications that can be used to alleviate the symptoms. This condition is best managed by a specialist sleep physician.
A common problem for those with untreated obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is that the excessive daytime sleepiness makes it extremely difficult to exercise due to a lack of energy and motivation. So if CPAP treatment can help to reduce apnoea events during sleep, will adherence to CPAP use result in an increase in physical activity?
There is no aspect of our minds and bodies that sleep does not touch. A good night’s rest is tantamount to maintaining a healthy brain, mind, cardiovascular system, immune system and metabolism. Sleep is one of the most important things we can do each day to keep ourselves healthy and happy into old age. So what happens when we can’t get either the quality or quantity of sleep that we need for optimal health?
- Melatonin is released from the pineal gland when it is dark
- Use of artificial light at night negatively impacts melatonin release
- Light can depress melatonin signaling and contribute to sleep disorders
- Supplemental melatonin may help to restore some of the melatonin signaling lost by exposure to artificial light at night
- Melatonin supplementation is exceedingly safe, even at very high doses
- Melatonin is a hormone, powerful antioxidant and analgesic
- Light exposure has a huge impact on sleep/wake cycles.
- Exposure to natural light throughout the day can help you stay alert and awake.
- Artificial lights at night can disturb our daily rhythms and disrupt sleep.
- Seek bright natural light during the day and darkness at night consistently for the best night’s sleep.
Humans have evolved to perform optimally when breathing through our noses. Nasal breathing fulfils many roles that breathing through your mouth cannot. The way in which we breathe can have lasting and meaningful effects on our health and wellbeing. So if nasal breathing is so important, why do some of us habitually breathe through our mouths?
Night sweats can be extremely uncomfortable and disruptive to sleep. Even though night sweats are not always a cause for alarm, there can sometimes be underlying causes that can be addressed to help ease their impact. Although not all night sweats are caused by the same thing, there are some common contributors in men:
Most people are extremely grateful when they are able to fall asleep shortly after their head hits the pillow. But the reality is, many of us struggle to get off to sleep without tossing and turning. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to help you to get to sleep without having to lie in bed for too long.
Most people spend roughly one third of their whole lives sleeping. Despite its obvious importance to health, sleep remains mysterious in many ways. The debate of how much sleep we really need to be healthy has been going on for a long time, with different people claiming to need different amounts of sleep to feel rested and well. In the last few years, however, research conducted by experts in the field unequivocally supports the notion that the average adult needs between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night.
Insomnia is a growing issue, with roughly 30% to 50% of adults dealing with at least a mild form. As this number increases, the desire to find safe and effective treatments has grown precipitously in the last decade. Among some of the most common approaches to the treatment of insomnia are soporific drugs such as benzodiazepines. These drugs are designed to lower brain activity and artificially induce sleep. Unfortunately, this class of drugs have been found to be ineffective in generating healthful and regenerative sleep.