Scripps Health: Common Sleep Problems

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– Sleep apnea is a very common condition. In the adult population it might be anywhere from 10% to 15% of the population that can have this condition. But basically at its core, it’s a breathing problem that occurs with sleep. When the brain goes to sleep at night the airway muscles relax and that allows the airway to narrow down. So basically at night time, the upper airway is like a cylinder back behind the tongue. And so when your muscles relax at night that airway relaxes as well. And so then you might start to have a little (snoring). Snoring. But eventually what happens is that airway will (short snoring) collapse. And at that point a person’s suffocating. They don’t know it, their brain starts to know it and within about ten seconds the brain will wake up and (gasps) open the airway up. And despite the fact that that sounds traumatic, people don’t know that this is happening all night long. And so it does two things, it really diminishes the sleep quality a person achieves.

So they can get eight hours of sleep but they never feel rested. But then also it might put a lot of extra stress on the body so we know it can affect the blood pressure, the heart, the brain, and these are chronic long-term exposures that we wanna try to rectify. The basic definition of insomnia really is that a person can’t sleep well and that there’s a daytime consequence. Could be the person’s irritable, they’re tired, they’re fatigued, they can’t think right, so there’s a really negative consequence to that bad night of sleep. Most adults have had a bad night of sleep before. Fortunately most of us get right through it and the next night we’re back on track but some people they develop really a chronic problem where they’re just nightly not getting a good night of sleep. And so we really work to try to undo that for people. Sleep apnea is really diagnosed by doing a sleep study. And there are a couple different ways to do that depending on the person’s clinical scenario and their issues.

Sometimes we’ll bring them to the sleep center and do an overnight sleep test where they sleep overnight with our technicians and our staff at the center. Sometimes we can do this at home which is nice newer way or newer avenue for us to treat diagnosed sleep apnea. And that’s a little bit simpler, we don’t get the same amount of quality data but it’s still quite useful test that we can do. Insomnia, really there is no definitive diagnostic test for it. It’s really a clinical diagnosis made with a clinician and we try to characterize that and define that in terms of, how long has a person been suffering? What are the critical components to it? What are the underlined factors? What are the other conditions? Whether it’s chronic pain, different medications, other illnesses that might contribute. We really need that information to formulate a plan of action for that patient. My personal philosophy in approach with sleep is that it’s so critical for every component of our health.

Either our daytime function or just even our brains and our hearts and every other organ system in our body. And because we don’t know what’s going on when we’re asleep, it’s really important if you have any concern at all to look into to it. Because why would you ever want to live life with bad sleep if you could do otherwise. It’s fundamental to our function, our alertness, our mood and our well-being. And so to me it’s really important to make an informed decision about my own health. And so I try to encourage people to do the same. That you should be proactive, learn about your sleep, learn about what could be different. ‘Cause if you have a problem it’s probably not going away until it’s addressed. And sleep is a little bit unusual because you really don’t necessarily know what’s going on at night. And so here’s the opportunity to change that. .

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