Despite being a universal necessity among living species, sleep is a part of life that is often taken for granted. As human beings, we can expect to spend, on average, one third of our lives asleep. The NIH estimates that between 50-70 million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder, and that 1 in 3 Americans do not get the recommended amount of uninterrupted sleep needed to support their health.
In addition to the obvious impact on quality of life that poor sleep quality results in, studies have shown that it can also have a serious impact on a person’s health, and in some instances can contribute to conditions that can, actually, lead prematurely to death.
Sleep disorders have actually been linked to many medical conditions
Including, but not limited to:
- High blood pressure
- Heart attack
- Anxiety and depression
- Substance abuse
Classifying Sleep Disorder
While insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea are the most widely recognized, the International Classification of Sleep Disorders (ICSD) defines seven classifications of sleep disorder:
- Sleep-related breathing disorders
- Central disorders of hypersomnolence
- Circadian rhythm sleep-wake disorders
- Sleep-related movement disorders
- Other sleep disorders
Within these seven classifications, there are well over 50 specific different diagnoses that can be identified, creating a significant degree of variability, and requiring numerous methods for accurate diagnosis and treatment.
Why Do Sleep Disorders Occur?
Sleep disorders have a variety of causes. In some instances, aspects of a person’s lifestyle, such as their occupation and the hours they work, behaviors that may unintentionally impact their sleep habits, dietary factors, social stressors, substance use or abuse, medications, or other factors may be having an impact on their ability to sleep or the quality of sleep that they are getting.
Physical factors such as obesity, lung disease, or other anatomic features may lead to obstructed breathing during sleep. This causes a drop in the amount of oxygen in the blood, leading to worse sleep quality and persistent daytime fatigue.
Certain neurologic conditions or injuries, like a concussion, may lead to increased sleep, persistent fatigue, or may interrupt the signal to breath in one’s brain while they asleep. Other neurologic conditions may result in acting out dreams or in persistent limb movements during sleep, which can lead to restless, poor quality sleep.
How Can My Sleep Improve?
The evaluation of a sleep disorder begins with a thorough history, physical exam, review of medications, and discussion of lifestyle and behavioral factors that may be impacting sleep. Additional studies, such as a polysomnogram, or “sleep study”, may be performed to diagnose certain disorders and determine their severity. Blood tests may be obtained to look for specific medical conditions that may impact sleep or may contribute to feelings of fatigue. Depending on the diagnosis, behavioral interventions or modifications, devices such as a CPAP or oral appliance, medications, cognitive or emotional services, or in rare instances surgical interventions may be recommended to treat a sleep disorder.
Here at the LCMC Neurosciences Institute, your sleep specialist will work with a multidisciplinary team that may include members from Internal Medicine, Gerontology, Pediatrics, Family Practice, Pulmonary Medicine, Psychiatry, and/or Otolaryngology to identify the causes of your sleep disorder and put together a treatment plan that will have you on the path to a more restful nights sleep and, by extension, a healthier life.