Memorial Regional Health: Feeling tired, fatigued? It could be a lack of quality sleep
Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that can have serious consequences
Editor’s note: The following article is sponsored by Memorial Regional Health. A few portions of this article previously appeared in a separate MRH-sponsored article in the Craig Press.
Do you feel excessively tired or unrefreshed during the day? Does your partner complain of loud snoring or notice pauses in breathing during sleep?
Sleep apnea can be a serious disorder due to complications that can include high blood pressure, heart problems, type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, liver problems and more, according to the Mayo Clinic. It can also cause sleep deprivation for the partners of those with the condition, and it can cause complications with medications and surgery.
Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and narcolepsy, which is a chronic sleep disorder characterized by overwhelming daytime drowsiness and sudden attacks of sleep, are more prevalent than people realize, said Selena Hafey, Polysomnographic Technologist and Certified Sleep Study Technologist at Memorial Regional Health.
“Sleep is important, and people need to value their sleep,” she said. “I hear the phrase often, ‘sleep is for the weak,’ and I could not disagree more. Sleep is for everyone. People need sleep to function, and it needs to be a priority.”
Obstructive sleep apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common of all sleep disorders. The airway collapses or is blocked during sleep, causing shallow breathing or a pause in breathing. Pauses can last a few seconds or minutes and can occur 30 or more times in one hour. The person starts breathing again, sometimes with a choking sound or loud snort as they gasp for air.
Because of interrupted sleep, they are left tired and drowsy during the day — often relying on stimulants like coffee or soda to stay awake. Sometimes with sleep apnea, people have no energy so they don’t want to do anything, and their doctors mistakenly treat them for depression. In addition, people commonly have morning headaches from the decrease in oxygen.
“Quality sleep helps repair the mind and body. A lack of quality sleep can take a toll on the body, which can lead to things such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, and depression,” Hafey said. “Please make time for sleep — it is important!”
Diagnosis and treatment
Sleep apnea is diagnosed with a sleep study, which Memorial Regional Health can provide nearly every night of the week. Sleep studies are also available during the day for people who work unconventional shifts.
The room is set up like a bedroom in a home to make patients feel comfortable. Hafey begins by wiring the patient with leg EMG wires, EKG wires, chest and abdomen belts, and EEG and EOG wires on the head that can read the patient’s sleeping and waking brain waves.
“After the wires are applied the patient is allowed to read, watch TV or pass time until 10 p.m. By then, the test needs to be started. The lights are turned out and the patient attempts falling asleep,” Hafey said. “I may try different therapies on the patient such as CPAP, BiPAP or supplemental oxygen depending on patient needs. The test will continue until around 5 a.m., after which I will wake the patient up and begin taking the wires off.”
If a patient has sleep apnea, the main treatment will usually be Continuous Positive Airway Pressure or CPAP. Hafey said this treatment keeps the patient’s airway open while they sleep to avoid airway collapse, which aids breathing and helps prevent frequent awakenings.
If this CPAP pressure can’t be tolerated or more advanced therapy is needed, Hafey said Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure (BiPAP) treatment might be more successful.
CPAP and BiPAP machines are common solutions for sleep apnea because they help to keep airways open. The machine, about the size of a toaster, has a tube with a mask attached and is relatively quiet. If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea, you will likely receive a prescription for a CPAP or BiPAP machine to help regulate your breathing. The machine sits by your bed and you wear a mask all night. It sounds strange, but people get used to it quickly. The tradeoff of good sleep is well worth it.
If these treatments don’t work, another treatment option might be supplemental oxygen.
“Patients may have low oxygen saturation while asleep without breathing problems (pauses or shallow breathing), and in this case, oxygen might be necessary to bring their saturation levels up while asleep,” she said. “One to two liters usually helps.”
Why quality sleep should be a priority
Hafey said good, sound sleep is extremely important — as important as eating right or exercising.
“Good quality sleep is different from getting enough sleep. People can sleep for 8 or more hours but still not feel rested. This is because they are not getting quality sleep,” she said. “Quality sleep is the sleep that makes you wake up feeling refreshed in the morning.”
Deep, REM sleep is what restores a person’s tissue, muscles, and body, Hafey said.
“REM sleep is restorative for the mind. Getting REM sleep repairs memory and cognition. Not getting this deep sleep makes one’s mind not as sharp and leaving them feeling foggy throughout the day,” she said. “Studies have also shown that it is more or just as dangerous to drive sleep-deprived as it is drunk.”
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