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Sleep: Early to Bed, Early to Rise?

Jan 02, 2018 01:47PM ● Published by Jason Huddle

Sleep: Early to Bed, Early to Rise?

As kids, we dreaded the hour when our parents said we had to go to bed. As adults, we relish sleep after a tough day. 

Sleep is as important to our overall physical health as eating and exercising. Getting enough sleep aids in combatting illnesses while also helping us function more capably.

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services says, “During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health. While you’re sleeping, your brain is preparing for the next day. It’s forming new pathways to help you learn and remember information. Studies also show that sleep deficiency alters activity in some parts of the brain. If you’re sleep deficient, you may have trouble making decisions, solving problems, controlling your emotions and behavior, and coping with change. Sleep deficiency also has been linked to depression, suicide and risk-taking behavior.”

“Poor sleep health is a common problem, with 25 percent of U.S. adults reporting insufficient sleep or rest at least 15 out of every 30 days,” the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion adds. “The odds of being a short sleeper (less than six hours a night) in the United States have increased significantly over the past 30 years. Competition between sleep schedules, employment and lifestyle is a recent trend.”

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) advises how much quality sleep each of us should strive for. Infants should get 12 to 17 hours of sleep per 24 hours; children, nine to 12 hours; teens, eight to 10 hours; and adults, at least seven. Poor quality sleep can skew these numbers and occurs when a person wakes up multiple times during the night and doesn’t feel rested the next morning. Sleep disorders are often the root cause.

British writer and composer, Anthony Burgess, said, “Laugh and the world laughs with you; snore and you sleep alone.”

It’s funny, but it’s not. CDC estimates that 50 million to 70 million adults in the U.S. have a sleep disorder, and snoring is a prominent symptom.

Poor sleep can stem from insomnia, restless legs syndrome (RLS) and narcolepsy. The most common form of Snoring Sleep-disordered Breathing (SDB) is obstructive sleep apnea.

Insomnia is defined as “the inability to obtain sufficient sleep, difficulty in falling or staying asleep, sleeplessness. RLS is a disorder characterized by an unpleasant tickling or twitching sensation in the leg muscles when sitting or lying down, which is relieved only by moving the legs. Narcolepsy is excessive daytime sleepiness and intermittent, uncontrollable episodes of falling asleep during the daytime. And obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a serious sleep disorder that occurs when a person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep. People with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, sometimes hundreds of times. This means the brain – and the rest of the body – may not get enough oxygen.”

Some 20 to 40 percent of adults are affected by SBD, which raises the incidence of stroke or death two to three times when untreated. It also obviously adds up to lost sleep. This is called sleep debt and some try to combat it by napping.

“Some people nap as a way to deal with sleepiness. Naps may provide a short-term boost in alertness and performance; however, napping doesn’t provide all of the other benefits of night-time sleep. Thus, you can’t really make up for lost sleep,” the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services says.

In addition, sleeping when you usually don’t affects your physical sleep-wake rhythm. The CDC recommends we “go to bed at the same time each night and rise at the same time each morning; avoid large meals before bedtime; avoid caffeine and alcohol close to bedtime; and avoid nicotine.”

Unfortunately, there are those who work swing shift hours or are on call as part of their job. Quality sleep can be a challenge but untreated SDB like obstructive sleep apnea is dangerous.

Untreated OSA may cause high blood pressure or make an already existing condition worse. WebMD says, “When you wake up often during the night, your body gets stressed. That makes your hormone systems go into overdrive, which boosts your blood pressure levels. Also, the level of oxygen in your blood drops when you can’t breathe well, which may add to the problem.

“People with OSA are more likely to have heart attacks. The causes may be low oxygen or the stress of waking up often. Strokes and atrial fibrillation – a fast, fluttering heartbeat – are also linked with the condition. Sleep apnea disrupts how your body takes in oxygen, which makes it hard for your brain to control how blood flows in your arteries and the brain itself.

“Sleep apnea is common among people with type 2 diabetes – 80 percent or more of them may have OSA. Obesity raises a person’s risk for both disorders. Although studies haven’t shown a cause-and-effect link between sleep apnea and type 2 diabetes, not getting enough shut-eye can keep your body from using insulin properly, which leads to diabetes.

“Extra pounds raise your chances of getting sleep apnea, and the condition also makes it harder to slim down. When you’re overweight, you can have fatty deposits in your neck that block breathing at night. On the flip side, sleep apnea can make your body release more of the hormone ghrelin, which makes you crave carbs and sweets. And when you’re tired all the time, you might not be able to turn the food you eat into energy as efficiently, which can lead to weight gain.”

If you’re having trouble sleeping, the CDC recommends writing in a sleep diary for two weeks. Document how many hours you sleep each night, whether or not you wake up rested each morning and if you find yourself getting sleepy during the day.

The next step is to see a doctor with your results. He or she may enroll you in a sleep study. WebMD identifies the four types typically utilized today. All are polysomnograms (PSGs) that electronically record and transmit physical activities that take place while you sleep. The data is then analyzed for a diagnosis.

“Diagnostic overnight PSG is   general monitoring of sleep and a variety of body functions during   sleep, including breathing patterns, oxygen levels in the blood, heart rhythms and limb movements.

“Diagnostic daytime multiple sleep latency test (MSLT) is used to diagnose narcolepsy and to measure the degree of daytime sleepiness. It measures how quickly you fall asleep in quiet situations during the day. It also monitors how quickly and how often you enter REM sleep (rapid eye movement…when we vividly dream).

“Two-night evaluation PSG and CPAP titration: On the first night, you’ll have general monitoring and diagnostic evaluation. If sleep apnea is discovered, you’ll come back for a second night to determine the right air pressure for CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) treatment. It delivers air into your airways through a specially designed nasal mask.

“Split-night PSG with CPAP titration is done when moderate or severe sleep apnea has been discovered or strongly suspected during the first part of the night’s study. The second half of the night is used to determine the CPAP pressure needed to offset apnea.”

Sleep study patients are given a private room with a monitoring station nearby. Electrodes are attached to their head, face and body for analysis. Of course, treatment depends on diagnosis. If OSA is discovered, your physician may fit you with a CPAP. A mask is attached to a machine by a hose that aids in breathing. And some manufacturers are introducing the micro CPAP – a small, cordless CPAP device.

There are also effective dental sleep appliances, nerve stimulators and surgery. While this may sound intimidating, the alternatives are worse.

If you’re not catching enough ZZZs, contact one of the sources for sleep medicine here in Cabarrus County for an answer. Have a good night!

Article By: Kim Cassell

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