A good night of sleep – seems like the simplest thing, yes? Almost a right and due – shouldn’t everyone sleep like a baby? While this appears to be true, we know that even babies don’t always sleep well. And for some, a full evening of rest is an elusive thing. 4% of Americans have used prescription sleep aides in the last month. More women than men use them, and their use is greater in the 50 and older age group.
Sleep disorders can significantly impact one’s work and home life – and your health.
Snoring and sleep apnea are the number 1 medical cause of relationship and marriage break ups. Prolonged sleep apnea can lead tohypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression, heart attack, and stroke. Chronic fatigue that results from sleep issues can keep one from being at their best and contributes to poor work performance.
Sleep can be disordered for a number of reasons. Some can’t fall asleep or stay asleep – this is known as insomnia. Everyone at sometime in their life will not sleep due to an acute condition – a problematic day at work, racing mind, or maybe just too much coffee close to bedtime. These times are short and self-limited. Chronic insomnia is defined as having difficulty falling asleep 3 nights a week, or for 3 months or longer. Insomnia can be “co-morbid” – due to a medical condition that is known to cause sleep issues. Both psychiatric and medical conditions can cause this to happen, as can a host of medications.
So, no, it’s not all in your head, and as you WELL know if you’ve ever had trouble sleeping – wishing it away won’t work. While there is no definitive test for insomnia, the diagnosis usually involves an inventory of sleep related medical questions, a sleep log, and blood or sleep testing. Thus, visiting a sleep professional is essential to getting the right diagnosis and proper help.
For some, falling asleep easily is actually the sign of a sleep issue. Long-standing fatigue can make one fall sleep inappropriately – as a passenger in a car, in the theatre, or at your desk when it’s expected you will be alert and productive. In this case, the problem is poor quality sleep. It could be that you are frequently awakened by something known as “apnea”. An apnea is a cessation or pause in the breath – the cause for this is either in the central nervous system, or because the airway is unable to stay open enough to allow you to sleep. The body reflexively awakens you when your airway closes off – a protective reflex that wakes us up enough to breathe. All humans of all ages have some degree of apnea during sleep – and it is usually a combination of “central” and “obstructive”. But., when it becomes excessive and sleep becomes fragmented, there is a bigger problem.
Despite common belief, you don’t have to be obese to have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). In fact, OSA in and of itself can cause insulin resistance and cause or promote obesity. OSA occurs in up to 10% of children of various weights and sizes and is the most common sleep disorder in children. We often observe that if we get children to breathe better at night, they gain weight, become more productive at school, and behavior and learning issues sometimes disappear.
There are definitive tests for apnea. While going to a sleep lab was once the gold-standard way to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea, most insurance companies now prefer in home sleep testing. A doctor who is familiar with the diagnosis and treatment of sleep can easily order such testing. It has to be interpreted by a sleep specialist, and recommendations are made how best to get treated. CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) is one way to treat obstructive apnea, and continues to be recommended for the most severe cases. But there are an array of other treatments, which the doctor will discuss with you when reviewing the results.
So, what can you do to help yourself, your child or loved one sleep better?
If these behavioral techniques don’t work, there are herbal remedies and supplements that can naturally help you get better sleep.
Magnesium – One of the most important minerals for your sleep, muscle relaxation and mental health. Clinical studies have shown that it improves insomnia, sleep efficiency, sleep time and sleep onset. Can be taken by mouth, put into a warm bath, or rubbed on the skin as a cream or oil.
Melatonin – this hormone is produced by your body in response to light to help regulate your sleep wake cycle. Melatonin can also help reflux – a condition that often occurs alongside obstructive sleep apnea. Should be used in small amounts, and about an hour prior to bedtime.
Valerian – this amino acid increases the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain. As such, it does what prescribed sleep aids like Xanax and Valium do – only with out the associated risks.
L-Theanine – well known as an anxiolytic, L-Theanine not only helps produce a state of calm, but has been shown to aid overall sleep quality.
The Blum Center and Elite Health Services are teaming up to provide patients suffering from sleep disturbances with a natural and holistic solution to improving breathing and sleep related problems during a FREE community talk with Sezelle Gereau, MD and Dr. Brad Gilden.
Date: Monday, September 25th
Time: 7:00 PM
Location: Blum Center