Counting Sheep: Is It Stress, or Could It Be a Sleep Disorder?

Feb 6, 2013 -  It’s 2 a.m. You’re staring at the ceiling for the third time this week. And it’s only Wednesday. Sound familiar? If so, your sleeplessness could be more than just a bad case of daily life stress or presentation jitters. Before you get beyond exhaustion, it may be time to ask your doctor about sleep disorders.

Why sleep is so important
Everyone has heard the studies and the clichés…”a good night’s sleep” – but who can get any shuteye with the go-faster lifestyles we have today? Despite all the noise, sleep is more crucial than ever. Over the years we have lost sight of the fact that sleep is not just resting or taking a break from busy routines. It is essential to physical and emotional health. Adequate sleep may also play a role in helping the body recover from illness and injury. Not getting enough “beauty sleep” can lead to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and depression. Our bodies require from 7-9 hours of quality sleep a night, it’s the way we are made. Currently many of us are only averaging 6-6.5 hours, and this average is falling fast.

It’s also a chance for your brain to rest and recharge. So it carries with it many emotional and mental benefits too. Even occasional sleep problems can make daily life feel more stressful and less productive. And some people with chronic sleep problems are more likely to develop psychiatric problems. In a recent survey, those who said they had trouble getting enough sleep reported impaired ability to perform tasks involving:
  • Memory
  • Learning
  • Logical reasoning
  • Mathematical calculation
Telltale signs of a sleep disorder
Here’s a quick list of symptoms to watch for that may signal something more than just a bad night.
  • Irritability or sleepiness during the day
  • Difficulty staying awake when sitting still
  • Falling asleep or feeling very tired while driving
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Looking tired all the time (others notice)
  • Slow reaction time
  • Trouble controlling your emotions
  • Need for a daily nap
  • Dependency on caffeinated beverages
Types of sleep disorders and steps to diagnosis
Sleep problems may be caused by or be the result of disorders in various systems of the body. Obstructive sleep apnea, for example, is a respiratory disorder while narcolepsy is a neurological disorder. The Institute of Medicine estimates that between 50 and 70 million Americans have chronic sleep problems,and only half are currently diagnosed and treated.

The good news is the cause of sleep problems can be discovered through a fairly simple sleep study, generally performed at a sleep disorders center.. Basically, you pack yourself up for a night, get comfortable and while you sleep (or at least try to sleep), monitors measure your brainwave activity, breathing, heart rhythm, eye movements, chest movements, arm and leg movements, and oxygen level. Then doctors and other analysts take the the data collected at the sleep disorder center and diagnose your condition.

For certain people a more simplified test version can be done overnight in the comfort of their own home. This may make sense if you exhibit symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea, and either due to insurance or personal preferences would prefer the testing be done at home in your own surroundings.

Sleep disorders that are diagnosed at the ECHN Sleep Disorders Center:

Obstructive sleep apnea, in which a person's breathing passages become temporarily blocked during sleep
  • Central sleep apnea, a neurological condition in which the brain "forgets" to instruct the body to breathe
  • Periodic limb movements, a syndrome in which a person's legs, feet, or toes will move during sleep, causing repeated awakening
  • Restless leg syndrome, which causes uncomfortable sensations in a person's legs that can interfere with the ability to fall asleep or stay asleep
  • Narcolepsy, in which a person has sudden sleep attacks throughout the day and night that sometimes cannot be controlled
  • Insomnia, a chronic (ongoing) inability to fall asleep or to remain asleep throughout the night
Getting to the bottom of your restless nights
The first step is setting up an appointment with your primary care provider or sleep specialist to determine the right plan of care for you.. If your doctor recommends visiting a sleep disorder clinic, ECHN offers a Sleep Disorders Center at Manchester Memorial Hospital that is staffed by sleep professionals and trained specialists. It’s one of only a few centers in Connecticut to schedule sleep testing times based on your sleep routine, no matter what that may be. This is very important to obtaining the most effective diagnosis and treatment possible.

Online Medical Reviewer: Berry, Judith, PhD, APRN
Online Medical Reviewer: Weisbart, Ed, M.D.
Last Annual Review Date: 5/28/2012
© 2000-2012 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
Online Medical Reviewer: Berry, Judith, PhD, APRN
Online Medical Reviewer: Weisbart, Ed, M.D.
Last Annual Review Date: 5/23/2012

© 2000-2012 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
Online Medical Reviewer: Fraser, Marianne, MSN, RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Sohrabi, Farrokh, MD
Last Annual Review Date: 2/7/2012
Copyright Health Ink & Vitality Communications

Helpguide.org: “Sleep Disorders and Sleeping Problems,” Melinda Smith, M.A., Lawrence Robinson, Greg Boose, and Robert Segal, M.A. Last updated: January 2013.

http://www.helpguide.org/life/sleep_disorders.htm


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