Nearly 40 percent of all Americans complain of some sort of difficulty with either falling asleep, staying asleep or daytime fatigue. For these millions of sufferers, sleep-related disorders can result in lost productivity at work, loss of strength or stamina, decreased libido, etc. In their mildest forms, sleep related problems create constant annoyance, as well as physical and emotional drain. At their worst, they are life threatening.
The medical community is increasingly recognizing that sleep disorders are the root-cause of many physical and psychological problems which in the past have gone undiagnosed. Whatever form they take, sleep disorders are potentially serious and should not be ignored.
Let us start by looking at some statistics about sleep and sleep disorders:
- There are over 84 different sleep disorders
- Between 50 and 70 million people in the United States suffer from some type of sleep-related disorders such as snoring, fragmented sleep and sleep apnea.
- According to the National Sleep Disorders Research Center, only five percent of patients are diagnosed and treated for sleep disorders.
- 50% of people with a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or more have sleep apnea (brief periods of inability to breath while sleeping)
- Less than seven percent of people with a sleep disorder are overweight.
- The Institute of Medicine (IOM) reports that almost 20 percent of all serious car crash injuries are associated with driver sleepiness, independent of the effects of alcohol.
- Every 5 minutes, somewhere in the United States, police report an automobile crash that is a direct result of driver fatigue.
Sleep apnea has two major consequences, one is a person’s quality of life: many employees have been fired for falling asleep on the job or have had strained relationships due to mood swings or inability to function normally. The second consequence is cardiovascular. Sleep apnea is a risk factor for hypertension, high blood pressure, and is associated with heart attacks and strokes, heart failure and death. If you experience any of the following symptoms or problems, you should consider discussing the possibility that you may have a sleep disorder with your physician:
- Feeling fatigued or falling asleep during the day
- Having difficulty concentrating
- You have been told that you snore, gasp for breath, or appear to stop breathing when you sleep
- Excessive weight gain or a BMI over 40
- Unable to fall asleep or stay asleep through the night
- Excessive urination during the night
- Uncontrollable leg movements while sleeping
Should your physician recommend a sleep study, you will most likely be sent to a sleep diagnostic facility where you will spend the night. During the study, a sleep technician will monitor and record your breathing, heart rate and rhythm, leg movements and the quality of your sleep with highly sophisticated equipment. A sleep study is non-invasive and doesn’t hurt.
Treatment for sleep disorders range from better sleep hygiene, (e.g. no caffeine after 2 PM, no television in the bedroom, etc.) to the use of medication or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) equipment. Patients that receive treatment for sleep apnea report an increase in energy, weight loss, greater concentration and increased libido in addition to:
- Lower risk of heart attack or stroke
- Easier weight loss
- Feeling better, more energy, stronger
- Enjoying better relationships at home & at work
- Waking up refreshed each morning
- Being more in control of your life
- Improved blood pressure control
- Diabetic Control
Most insurance companies and Medicare cover the cost of a sleep study when ordered by your physician. If you are experiencing any signs or symptoms of having a potential sleep disorder, you are encouraged to contact your physician today. You may never know the quality of life you are missing.
Written By Sigfredo Aldarondo, MD