Hey, sleepyhead…wake up! If you suffer from sleep apnea (or another sleep disorder) and seem to be hearing this command frequently from colleagues or loved ones, you may be experiencing excessive daytime sleepiness. Take heart, though, you’re not alone. Nearly a quarter of us routinely feel so drowsy it negatively affects our work life, studies, leisure activities and interpersonal relationships.
More than a third of all adults, and up to half of younger adults, admit to sometimes nodding off during the day. Planned cat naps don’t count. These unintentional episodes of sleep may signal a chronic sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea. In general, getting seven to nine hours of sleep per night is the ideal, but not nearly the norm for almost half of adults. Lack of concentration and impaired memory have been reported by roughly 20 percent of sleep-deprived adults.
The number of Americans not getting the recommended amount of shut-eye is worrisome enough to, well…lose sleep over. According to Harvard University’s www.healthysleep.med, short term affects of lack of sleep include poor judgment, changes in mood, ability to learn and retain information, and an increased risk of accidents and injury. In the long term, ongoing sleep disturbances, including sleep apnea, are linked to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and even early mortality. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention has called insufficient sleep a “public health epidemic.”
If you’re concerned about whether or not your grogginess could be due to a sleep disorder, take this quiz to help gauge your level of daytime sleepiness. http://sleepfoundation.org/quiz/national-sleep-foundation-sleepiness-test. This simple screening tool can help you determine if it’s time to discuss your sleep, or lack of it, with your doctor.
Despite the widespread prevalence sleep disorders and their potential impact on health and safety, most who suffer with the condition never mention it to their doctors during regular check-ups. And many doctors don’t ask about sleep at all. Some individuals rely on self-medicating sleep disorders with over-the-counter remedies or alcohol, which not only has side effects but may make sleep problems worse.
A sleep specialist can identify the cause of interrupted sleep. Treatment recommendations can improve sleep, health, and quality of life. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a common cause of excessive daytime sleepiness. The patterns of interrupted breathing associated with OSA affect quality of sleep because the individual continually wakes up to clear a blocked airway. Although this happens repeatedly during sleep, those experiencing the awakenings usually have no recollection of them. Often, daytime fatigue is what alerts the patient to his problem.
There are currently no medications to treat sleep apnea. One treatment available is an oral device designed to reposition the lower jaw in a way that keeps the airway open. These devices work well in individuals whose OSA is mild to moderate . Other treatment options include surgical procedures that widen the airway so that it is less likely to close during sleep.
If you experience any of the following sleep disorder symptoms, it may be wise to mention them to your doctor. Some symptoms are related to OSA, while others are more likely to be associated with other causes.
- You routinely take more than half an hour to fall asleep.
- You wake up several times each night and have difficulty falling back asleep.
- Your partner remarks that you snore, gasp, snort, make choking sounds, or stop breathing for short periods during sleep.
- You feel tingling, creeping or crawling sensations in your legs that make you want to move them while you’re lying in bed trying to fall asleep. You may also wake up because your legs move uncontrollably.
- You feel as though you can’t move when you first wake up.
- You often feel sleepy during the day, take many naps, or fall asleep at inappropriate times during the day.
Kayvon Haghighi, DDS, MD, FACS is licensed to practice both medicine and dentistry in the state of New Jersey. Dr. Haghighi’s unique combination of surgical training and experience in facial reconstruction enables him to analyze your condition from multiple points of view.