Sleep is vital for good health. Experts recommend a minimum of seven to eight hours of sleep per night for most adults; a lack of sleep can affect your hormone levels, mood, weight and work or school performance and may result in physical, mental, social and emotional problems. Reaching that goal is difficult for many, thanks to the growing prevalence of sleep disorders.
What’s a Sleep Disorder?
Sleep disorders are conditions that prevent you from sleeping well on a regular basis. They are very common, affecting an estimated 75 percent of Americans on a regular basis. There are more than 100 different types of sleep disorders; the most common are:
- Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)
- Central sleep apnea (CSA)
- Parasomnia (abnormal movements and behavior during sleep)
- Hypersomnia (excessive sleepiness)
- Restless leg syndrome
- Circadian rhythm disorders
Symptoms vary depending on the type of sleep disorder and how severe its impact. A majority of patients report difficulty falling or staying asleep, excessive daytime sleepiness, irritability, lack of concentration, memory loss, and depression.
Sleep apnea is the most common sleep disorder that affects one in 15 Americans, with most cases undiagnosed. It occurs when a person experiences one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breathing while asleep. These pauses can last a few seconds to a few minutes. Generally, breathing begins again and is sometimes accompanied by snorting or choking.
Diagnosis & Treatment
Diagnosing and treating a sleep disorder is important in preventing more serious health problems from occurring. Most patients will need to undergo a polysomnography (sleep study), conducted in a sleep lab or at home. Other tests, such as an electroencephalogram and genetic blood testing, can be useful in a diagnosis.
With such a large number of recognized sleep disorders, there are many different causes. These include allergies and colds, chronic diseases, pain, stress and anxiety, work schedule and more. Treatment depends on the condition itself, but typically involves a combination of medications and lifestyle changes. Surgery may be an option for certain breathing-related disorders, such as snoring or OSA.
Call ENT Associates of Santa Barbara at (805) 964-6926 for more information or to schedule an appointment.
When you sleep, your tongue, throat muscles and soft palate relax. If they relax too much, they can droop backward and block the airway, vibrating together when you breathe. This causes the telltale noisy sounds associated with snoring. The more the airway is obstructed, the louder the snoring will be. If your snoring isn’t a complication of another sleep disorder, implementing lifestyle changes may help eliminate the problem. If they do not, oral appliances that reposition the lower jaw may help. Another alternative is nasal breathing strips. Some individuals might benefit from surgical techniques.
Sleep apnea is a disorder in which breathing is interrupted periodically throughout the night. There are two main types of sleep apnea: obstructive and central. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the throat muscles relax and droop during sleep, blocking the airway and causing breathing difficulty. Central sleep apnea is the result of the brain failing to properly control breathing during sleep; this is rare. The preferred method of treatment for sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). Other options for treatment include oral mouth guards that reposition the lower jaw and tongue, nasal breathing strips and surgery.