Sleep is vital to our well-being. Research shows that an adequate amount of quality sleep is essential for overall good health. Sleep disorders are often not taken seriously enough. Loud snoring and daytime fatigue may be warning signs of a sleep disorder. An undiagnosed sleep disorder could lead to an accident or may cause high blood pressure which increases the risk of a heart attack or stroke. Loss of sex drive may also be a symptom of a sleep disorder.
Many other medical problems may impact sleep or may be affected by sleep disorders. If you have heart or lung disease and poor sleep, you should consider discussing your symptoms with your doctor and arranging for a comprehensive evaluation by a board-certified sleep physician.
The St. David’s Center for Sleep Medicine uses the latest technology and equipment available to allow physicians more accuracy in their diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnea, as well as other disorders.
Sleep Apnea and Snoring
Everyone snores occasionally. However, persistent snoring can not only be an annoyance; it can be a symptom of a more serious problem called sleep apnea. Sleep apnea causes interruptions in breathing during sleep and its sufferers waken frequently, though they may not be aware of it. Because their nights are so restless, they spend their days feeling tired, but they don’t know the reason why. Those with sleep apnea may snore loudly and choke and gasp as they struggle to breathe. Left untreated, sleep apnea can cause shortness of breath, chest pain and can even lead to high blood pressure which can cause other serious health problems such as heart disease or stroke.
Approximately two percent of women and four percent of men have sleep apnea, and the incidence rises dramatically in the elderly, to about 10 percent. According to recent research:
- About twenty-five percent of people who have high blood pressure have sleep apnea.
- Patients with untreated sleep apnea are at increased risk for initial and recurrent heart attacks.
- Many patients are misdiagnosed with depression who are actually suffering from the long-term effects of sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a very treatable disease, and the technology to adequately treat this disorder has improved greatly in recent years. The overall quality of life is improved tremendously with effective treatment. Additionally, high blood pressure and many other risks associated with heart disease and stroke can be improved.
Insomnia is characterized by an inability to sleep and/or inability to remain asleep for a reasonable period. Insomniacs typically complain of being unable to close their eyes or "rest their mind" for more than a few minutes at a time. Finding the underlying cause of insomnia is usually necessary to cure it.
Symptoms may include:
- Depression or stress.
- Disturbing thoughts while trying to sleep.
- Waking during the night and going back to sleep with difficulty.
- Lying awake for more than half an hour before falling asleep.
Narcolepsy is a condition marked by an uncontrollable desire for sleep, or sudden attacks of weakness occurring during moments of strong emotions. Related symptoms and warning signs include:
- Vivid nightmares or hallucinations when falling asleep or waking up.
- Paralysis when falling asleep or awakening.
- Cataplexy is an episodic condition featuring loss of muscle function, ranging from slight weakness to complete body collapse
- A feeling of “going limp” when angry or surprised.
- Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS).
- Disturbed or fragmented sleep.
Periodic limb movements (PLM) and “restless legs” syndrome
These conditions are marked by involuntary muscle contractions of the legs or arms during sleep. Symptoms may include:
- Muscle tension in legs
- Crawling sensations in legs
- Kicking at night
- Daytime sleepiness
The most common examples of parasomnias include:
- Sleepwalking or sleep talking
- Severe nightmares/tremors
- Sleep terrors
- Movement disorder
- Stress and depression
- Teeth grinding
The St. David’s Center for Sleep Medicine has two convenient locations to serve you. Call (512) 341-6166 for more information or to schedule your sleep study.