Dr John Hey is Board Certified by the American Board of Sleep Medicine.
The field of sleep medicine is the newest specialty and one of the fastest growing. Scientists have discovered that, just as we need food and exercise, we also have to have adequate sleep in order to have good health. There are eighty-five sleep disorders, but there are several which are very common in our population that cause problems.
SLEEP BREATHING DISORDERS
When we go to sleep, our throat and nose passages relax. In certain people these close off and cause the patient not to be able to breathe in the necessary oxygen. Snoring is a mild version of this, but a severe version is known as sleep apnea (not breathing). This can occur numerous times during the night, and each time the patient is slightly awaken and his sleep is disturbed. As would be expected, the patient feels tired and sleepy all the next day. It also affects the patient’s ability to think clearly and may lead to symptoms of depression.
More importantly though, whenever the apnea occurs and the oxygen falls, a tremendous load is placed on the cardiovascular system. This results in high levels of cortisone-type hormones and adrenaline-type hormones being flushed into the system. For this reason we are finding:
- Strokes are 4 times more prominent in sleep apnea
- Three times the number of heart attacks
- Twice as much high blood pressure
In fact, over half of the patients with high blood pressure, where it is poorly controlled on several medications, are found to have obstructive sleep apnea. Half of the patients who are in heart failure are found to have sleep apnea, and indeed, it is almost impossible to treat these patients until the apnea is relieved.
Once treatment occurs, usually the heart failure goes away, the blood pressure comes down, and there is less risk.
There is twice as much “sudden death” in patients with untreated sleep apneas as in the general population, and twice as many apnea patients have atrial fibrillation as in the general population.
Some researchers have found that as much as twenty percent of the population has obstructive sleep apnea. Smokers are 4-5 times as likely to have apnea.
Many people with apnea are overweight and older, but there are also thin, young people that have it, including school children, who have three times the learning problems than those who don’t have breathing problems at night.
Besides the dangerous complications, apnea also lowers testosterone levels and growth hormones that leads to lack of libido and general stamina. This is restored when sleep apnea is treated. Decreased immunity and susceptibility to infection and malignancy occurs with sleep deficits.
Sleep breathing disorders are usually treated with nasal C-PAP, which is adjusted to the right pressure and causes the air to flow during sleep without interruption. Patients who receive this treatment are amazed at how much better they feel and how much less medication they usually need.
Because they have more energy, they can lose weight easier. Sleep apnea patients that are diabetic require about 30% more insulin than non-apnea patients, and sleep apnea patients have twice as much diabetes. Half of these have what is known as the “metabolic syndrome.” They also tend to have higher cholesterol.
There are other sleep disorders that cause problems; even simple insomnia can cause difficulties. Studies show that patients with insomnia have twice as much hospitalization than the general population. Often they have other problems too, such as marital difficulties, job problems and so forth.
The important thing about insomnia is finding out what is causing it, and not simply resort to sleeping pills, which may put you to sleep or give you ineffective sleep, but then carry over into the next day with side effects.
A large number of single car accidents with death are attributed to sleep apnea.
If you have any of the above-mentioned medical problems, you and your physician should consider having a sleep evaluation. Usually these problems can be sorted out and the patients are amazed at the improvements they have.
Revised August 6, 2018
Medical Arts Clinic
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Greenwood, Ms 38930
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