Excerpt from The Citrus Chronicle, Citrus County Fl:
Dr. Sunoj Abraham, is a pulmonologist and sleep expert with the Citrus Pulmonary Consultants and Sleep Disorders Center, who have offices in Inverness and Crystal River. Dr Abraham says there are essentially two reasons people have trouble sleeping and not feeling rested: Sleep apnea and insomnia.
Obstructive sleep apnea can occur when the person’s upper airway becomes blocked repeatedly during sleep, reducing or completely stopping the flow of air.
It’s estimated that 22 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea, according to the American Sleep Apnea Association. It’s estimated that 80 percent of those cases of moderate and severe obstructive sleep apnea are going undiagnosed.
There is help.
Breathing devices such as continuous positive air pressure (CPAP) machines and lifestyle changes are common sleep apnea treatments.
Undiagnosed or untreated sleep apnea can lead to serious complications such as heart attack, glaucoma, diabetes, cancer, and cognitive and behavioral disorders.
There is also central sleep apnea in which the airway is not blocked but the brain fails to signal the muscles to breath.
The third kind of sleep apnea is complex sleep apnea in which the patient suffers from a combination of the two other apneas. Obstructive apnea is the most common apnea, though.
The other common cause for sleep problems is insomnia.
At any given time, about one in 10 people suffer some measure of insomnia, according to the Sleep Health Foundation.
In most cases, mental health issues are behind insomnia, Abraham said.
Abraham said that the most common causes for short-term insomnia are ordinary stresses in life. In contrast, long-term causes are typically anxiety, depression or physical problems such as pain.
But the causes behind you not getting a good night’s sleep are varied, he said.
In some cases, people sleep, but don’t sleep deeply, he said.
That’s because they enter mostly into a light sleep and don’t have enough rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep that includes dreaming. REM is supposed to take up about 25 percent of all your sleep, according to Sleep Resolutions.
In contrast, light sleep is the non-REM stage and the easiest to wake up from.
This non-REM stage also becomes longer as we age, Abraham said.
In addition, seniors typically sleep less overall during the night, he said.
Teenagers have their own problems with sleep.
Teenagers need between 8 and 10 hours of sleep each night to function best, according to the National Sleep Foundation. But most do not get that much.
Only about 15 percent of teenagers reported sleeping 8.5 hours or more on school nights, the foundation reported
Abraham said that young people often play on computers and cell phones right before going to bed.
In addition, teens tend to have irregular sleep patterns by often staying up late and sleeping in late on weekends, he said.
Adults have their own bad sleeping habits.
As for employed adults who get less than five hours of sleep per night, nearly 60 percent said that work stress contributed to their inability to sleep, according to the poll conducted by Mattress Clarity.
And even when they leave work, 42 percent of Americans check their work emails before going to sleep, setting themselves up for stress that could disrupt their sleep.
Instead, people who have trouble sleeping should prepare by surrounding themselves with dim lighting and no loud noises.
People with sleep problems are often their own worst enemy, said Dr. Gaurav Shah, a partner at the Citrus Pulmonary Consultants and Sleep Disorders Center.
In cases of obstructive sleep apnea, about 85 percent of the time it’s caused by the patient being overweight or obese, Shah said.
The problem occurs when the throat and tongue muscles relax and this causes the airway to become blocked. In the case of an overweight patient or an obese one, there is extra tissue present to block the airwaves, Shah said.
In the case of insomnia, people should avoid watching television in their bedrooms and avoid looking at computer screens or cell phones, Shah said.
The light emanating from even cell phones is enough to stimulate the brain, tricking it to believe it is still daylight and not time to sleep, Shah said.
Unlike sleep apnea, insomnia can be treated with cognitive behavior therapy, Shah said.
That means that if you don’t fall asleep within 20-45 minutes of going to bed, get out of bed.
Keep lights dim and read a book that isn’t too stimulating, he said.
“And only go back to bed if you feel sleepy,” he said.
What won’t work is sleeping pills, at least not for long, Shah said.
After about 10 days they lose their effectiveness and the dose has to be increased, he said.
“I never prescribe sleep medicine,” he said.