The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report nearly 30 percent of Americans habitually sleep less than six hours a night. Yet seven to nine hours is the recommended daily sleep allowance for adults. Teenagers usually need at least nine hours in the sack, but they often stay up too late. That results in the short-term effects of sleep loss: diminished performance in thinking, attention, and heading back to school after winter break through a haze of fatigue. physical abilities, as well as irritability and headaches.
Often people don’t know when they’re sleep-deprived or why. If a caffeine infusion is required before you can feel alert, there is likely a problem. “The biggest effects for me were in the morning,” says Chris Brasel, a Moline school psychologist who suffered from sleep apnea until recently. “I had difficulty concentrating in the morning and general physical fatigue.”
Less sleep increases health risks
Prolonged sleep deprivation has long-term consequences that no amount of Starbucks can cure. Ear, Nose, and Throat Surgeon Dr. Douglas Dvorak, of Davenport-based ENT Professional Services, says lack of sleep is associated with high blood pressure, heart failure, and a host of other conditions. “Some serious health problems — things like obesity, heart attack, stroke, and depression — can be both the cause and the effect of insufficient sleep,” he warns. “Too little sleep can also
disrupt the hormones that regulate appetite. Decreased sleep increases hormones that stimulate appetite, often leading to increased weight gain and which can lead to sleep apnea.”
So, how do you know if you need treatment especially if sleep disorders are to blame? The most common sleep disorder is sleep apnea.
Restless leg syndrome, and narcolepsy are less common but can also be to blame. Dr Dvorak explains, “Sleep apnea is when a sleeper’s breathing stops for ten seconds or more. Apnea can happen a few times per night to over 100 times per hour. Often a spouse is the one that reports the problem, but this is often underestimated. That is why sleep testing is important.
“Restless leg syndrome also goes by several other names, but the symptoms are the same: tingling, crawling, or twitching in the legs that causes the sufferer to wake up in the night. Narcolepsy is a relatively rare disorder in dream sleep that can cause uncontrollable sleepiness in normal waking hours, even after an apparently full night’s sleep,” he adds.
Loud snoring is the most common warning sign for sleep apnea. It is estimated that 10% of the American population has sleep apnea but only 3% have been diagnosed. There are office procedures that ENT physicians can perform to address snoring such as pillar implants and radio frequency treatments of the palate (throat), but these are only effective if sleep apnea has been ruled out. Having a sleep study is often the only way to confirm whether a loud snorer has only an annoying problem or a serious medical problem with long term risks such as sleep apnea.
If you’re having problems sleeping and would like to speak to a sleep specialist who is part of the Mississippi Valley Health network, call 563-344-6653 or 888-621-6633 to speak with a patient advocate or send us your referral request by email and receive a free referral today!
Other stories you may want to read:
- Five ways to improve sleep – simple changes can make the difference between night and day when it comes to improving your sleep.
- Sleep apnea treatments restore rest – as with most sleep disorders, untreated sleep apnea can cause a host of serious health problems.
- Insomnia and other sleep disorders are covered in some detail on this website dedicated to discussing sleep disorders and alternatives.
- Curious about the effect of sleep deprivation on the brain? This report looks into that subject in more detail.
- Brain basics – understanding sleep: Helpful information from the National Institutes on Health.