Do you have trouble falling asleep, or even staying asleep? Or maybe your sleep is interrupted with restlessness, terrors, or involuntary leg movements. If you are plagued with sleep problems, you probably feel it during the day, experiencing sleepiness, irritability, and increased hunger. Sleep disorders pose a significant health risk. In fact, the leading cause of driver fatalities in heavy truck motor vehicle accidents is fatigue. And those that suffer from sleep disorders can experience an array of problems from fatigue and headaches during the day, to difficulty concentrating, depression, and even high blood pressure or heart disease. Sleep medicine is a medical specialty dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders, and finding the right sleep medicine provider can have a positive impact on every area of your life.
Sleep Disorders That Can be Treated by a Sleep Medicine Specialist
There is a wide range of sleep disorders, and sleep medicine specialists are highly educated and trained to diagnose and treat each individual illness. While many disorders can result in similar negative consequences, each illness is unique in its causes, symptoms, and treatments. Reviewing some of these disorders and their associated symptoms gives us a better understanding of the impact that sleep medicine can have on improving the life of those affected.
involves some difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, wakening too early or intermittent wakefulness during the night, every night for two weeks or more. This is the most common complaint of people who are experiencing difficulty sleeping, and can have a number of causes, including anxiety, stress, hormonal imbalances, using certain medications, or drug or alcohol abuse. Because sleep is our natural time to restore our body, this lack of sleep inevitably spills over into the daytime hours, resulting in poor work performance, poor decision-making, decreased alertness, irritability, and tiredness. If the problem occurs at least three times per week, for at least 3 months, it is considered chronic. Chronic insomnia can result in memory and concentration problems, impulsiveness or aggression, lack of energy, accidents, delusions, and even hallucinations.
is a common but serious sleep disorder that causes you to stop breathing while you are asleep. When your airway blocks, you might snore, or sound like you are choking. When this is severe enough that your body feels starved for oxygen, you will abruptly wake up. Having this occur frequently every night greatly interrupts your sleep, resulting in you feeling so tired during the day that you might fall asleep unintentionally. Certain people are more at risk of developing sleep apnea, including those who are overweight, have a large neck size, have a family history of apnea, or are middle aged. It also occurs more commonly among men. In addition to snoring and gasping, you would expect to experience the same problems as people with insomnia, along with morning headaches, waking frequently during the night to go to the bathroom, and a decreased sexual desire. There are also additional health risks associated with sleep apnea. Because of the frequent lack of oxygen experienced, those affected also have an elevated risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and depression.
affects about 1 in 2000 people, and causes a severe and overwhelming feeling of being tired. In some cases, it can cause “sleep attacks,” which are sudden and uncontrollable urges to sleep. People with narcolepsy do not necessarily sleep more hours than the average person, but the sleepiness occurs at unconventional times, and nighttime sleep is usually disrupted. This can be an extremely dangerous disorder because the attacks can occur at any time, including while eating or driving. In addition to excessive daytime sleepiness, other symptoms might include memory problems, hallucinations, sleep paralysis, which is the feeling of being paralyzed while falling asleep, or cataplexy – which is the sudden loss of muscle tone.
Restless Leg Syndrome
is a disorder that makes you feel the inexplicable or uncontrollable need to move your legs. Because the symptoms often occur at night, it is very difficult to fall asleep. Some people describe the sensation as burning, crawling, throbbing, or itching, which is relieved by getting up and walking. Even if the amount of sleep is not shortened, often the quality of sleep is poor, resulting in the same symptoms of sleep deprivation as other sleep disorders. Women are more likely than men to have restless leg syndrome, and those with the disorder are more likely to develop depression or anxiety.
Shift Work Disorder
is just as it sounds – working night shifts interferes with your body’s circadian rhythm, which acts as your body’s natural clock. People who do shift work often sleep four hours less than the average person, and their sleep quality is poor. This leaves them feeling fatigued, and more at risk for mistakes and accidents. Even after switching to a more conventional shift, people often continue to have long-term consequences from this disorder. In addition to the symptoms associated with lack of sleep, people with shift work disorder are more at risk for work-related injuries, costly mistakes, accidents, especially while driving, substance abuse in an attempt to improve sleep, more frequent colds and flus, high cholesterol, heart disease, and obesity.
Good Health Starts with a Good Night’s Sleep
We have all heard that eating a nutritional diet and getting regular exercise is important to stay healthy; but getting adequate amounts of quality sleep on a regular basis is just as important. The above syndromes are just a few of the many sleep disorders that can plague adults. A review of the symptoms associated with these problems emphasizes how sleep patterns can affect every area of our lives. And while things like fatigue, irritability, mood swings, poor concentration, and headaches can decrease the quality of your life, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and accidents can result in permanent disability, or worse. If you are consistently having trouble sleeping, have concerns that you have sleep apnea, or suspect that you have a sleep disorder; help is available. Sleep medicine specialists are experts in developing appropriate treatments that can improve your health and quality of life.
If you’re suffering from a sleep disorder or you would like to learn more about sleep medicine, or to find out more about Dr. Oseni, a certified pulmonologist and sleep specialist, please call (817) 549-9993 today. You can also contact us online at mailto:email@example.com