Don’t let a good night’s sleep elude you
Sleep is a foundation of fitness, but people often overlook its value, especially in comparison to diet and exercise.
We need adequate sleep to maintain healthy functioning. Sleep rests and rejuvenates body and mind. It is essential for our physical and emotional well-being.
Studies have shown that sleep regulates mood, enhances learning and preserves memory. It staves off accidents caused by daytime drowsiness, and lowers the risk of stress-related conditions, including cardiovascular disease.
Chances are good that you are not getting enough sleep; we recommend seven to eight hours a night. About 60 percent of Americans report problems sleeping a few nights a week or more, according to surveys by the National Sleep Foundation.
If a good night’s sleep is eluding you, if you feel tired or lethargic during the day, consult your primary care doctor. He or she may want to refer you to a specialist with training in sleep medicine and sleep disorders.
About 70 million Americans have some type of sleep disorder. The good news is that most sleep troubles are treatable.
In some cases, they can be resolved with better sleep habits: keeping a regular sleep schedule, getting regular exercise, avoiding stimulants (caffeine, alcohol, nicotine), creating a comfortable sleep environment, and keeping a routine for winding down at night.
In other cases, a thorough assessment of your sleep problems may be obtained through a sleep study. Some sleep-related medical conditions can only be detected during sleep. A sleep study allows us to observe and record brain waves, breathing, muscle activity and other events during sleep to make a diagnosis.
These studies typically are conducted in a sleep laboratory with comfortable rooms — similar to hotel rooms — that have regular beds and basic amenities to make sleeping there feel as natural as possible.
Although there are about 80 different types of sleep disorders, these are the most common:
- Insomnia: Difficulty falling or staying asleep is the most common sleep disorder. It can have many causes, including stress, anxiety, depression, medications, stimulants (caffeine, alcohol) and certain medical conditions. Treatment addresses the root cause, determined through a variety of assessment tools. Behavioral changes are a front-line treatment; medications can be helpful in select cases.
- Sleep apnea: About 16 million Americans suffer from interrupted breathing during sleep. People may stop breathing hundreds of times a night, which not only makes them tired during the day, but leads to other health risks such as heart attack and stroke. Sleep apnea occurs when the throat muscles intermittently relax during sleep and block the airway. Treatment typically involves devices to keep the airway open or surgical procedures to change the structure of the nose, mouth and throat.
- Narcolepsy: This is a disorder characterized by sudden onset of sleep during the day, regardless of circumstances. We don’t know the cause and we don’t have a cure, but we often can successfully manage symptoms with medications and lifestyle changes.
- Restless legs syndrome: An extremely uncomfortable feeling in your legs — tingling, crawling, cramping etc. — while at rest or lying down often disrupts sleep. Medications and simple lifestyle changes can alleviate symptoms.
OhioHealth Sleep Services at the Delaware Health Center is among several OhioHealth sleep center locations in central Ohio. All are accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and offer patient suites, comfortable beds, recliners, cable TV and private showers.
Dr. James Fulop is a board certified in neurology and sleep medicine and serves as corporate medical director of OhioHealth Sleep Services. He is also a member of the Grady Memorial Hospital medical staff.