You know when you had a poor night’s sleep. You lie awake watching the time tick by on your alarm clock, with each minute seeming to last an hour. We all have occasional trouble falling or staying asleep, but if you are often plagued by poor sleep, you may be among the more than 30 percent of adults who have a sleep disorder.
Sleeplessness describes one type of sleep disorder. Another sleep disorder is sleep apnea. Those people who sleep for eight or ten hours and wake without feeling rested may suffer from sleep apnea.
Sleep disorders not only include insomnia and sleep apnea, but they may also consist of snoring, dozing at inappropriate times, narcolepsy, nocturnal seizures, sleepwalking, frequent nightmares, teeth grinding or periodic limb movements (moving your arms and legs rhythmically during sleep). If these symptoms are part of your life, Gateway Regional Medial Center can help.
We feature board-certified doctors who are Diplomates in Sleep Medicine, as well as well-trained sleep technicians. All have been testing and treating such sleep disorders for years. With our experience and state-of-the-art equipment, we can help you get a better night’s sleep too.
A Widespread Problem
Sleep disorders affect millions of adults, making it difficult for them to get a good night’s rest. Ideally, most people need 6-9 hours of sleep each night, but chances are, that doesn’t happen every night. Sleep disorders can be triggered by one of the following reasons:
- Sleep apnea – when a person stops breathing repeatedly when sleeping. This occurs when structures completely block the throat, called apnea. Since the lungs aren’t getting fresh air, the brain tells the body to wake up just enough to tighten the muscles and unblock the air passage. With a loud gasp, breathing begins again. Other symptoms, besides gasping, include snoring, pauses in breathing and jerking movements. Even though people with sleep apnea won’t remember waking up often during the night, they will feel tired and groggy all day.
- Snoring – When throat structures are too large or the muscles relax too much during sleep, the air passage may be partially blocked. Air from the nose and mouth must pass around the blockage, thus creating a vibrating or rattling sound, often loud enough to wake others!
- Insomnia – is trouble falling or staying asleep. If it usually takes you more than 30 minutes to fall asleep or if you are up in the middle of the night longer than 30 minutes, you may have insomnia. Insomnia is most common in women and people over 60 years old, but can affect anyone at one time or another.
Sleep Studies Can Help
If you suffer from a sleep disorder, or have a general sleeping problem, a sleep study at Gateway Regional may help. You can schedule an appointment by calling 618-798-3400 or Contact Us through our website.
Your initial visit, with a sleep specialist, will document a detailed sleep history. You may want to document your sleeping patterns 1-2 weeks in advance of your appointment to give as much information to the specialist as possible.
A sleep study requires an overnight outpatient stay in the hospital. During setup, which takes an hour, sleep technicians apply electrodes to record sleep stages, eye movements, heart rate, breathing, oxygen levels, leg movements and snoring. By monitoring the electrodes, the physician can determine if a sleep disorder is present.
Your test will be scheduled for approximately 1 hour before your usual bedtime. Arrive 15 minutes ahead of schedule to register, and bring your medication and anything else you need to feel comfortable and ready to sleep. Leave the “rest” to us!
Some sleep disorders can be treated with medications or improved sleep habits. The most common form of treatment for sleep apnea is CPAP – continuous positive airway pressure, in which air is administered through a mask. This air works as a splint to keep the upper airway open during sleep.
Two weeks to one month after the test, you and your physician will meet to discuss results and possible treatment options.
You can increase the chances of getting a better night’s sleep by taking certain precautions before bed.
- Good sleep habits
The best sleep can result from going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. Your body will develop a pattern for better sleep. In addition, avoid exercise 4 to 6 hours before going to bed so your body has time to unwind.
- Watch what you eat
You don’t want to overeat before you go to bed, but you don’t want to go to bed hungry either. Try eating a light snack before bedtime.
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine or smoking
Many people believe a “nightcap” will help them sleep, but actually it has the reverse effect of causing you to toss and turn all night. Similarly, any foods with caffeine can keep you from sleeping, and should be avoided at least 6 hours before bedtime.
- Check your environment
Sleep starts with a comfortable room and bed. Make sure your room is quiet, with no distractions, a comfortable temperature, and appropriate light blocking shades or drapes.
- Be honest with yourself
Don’t take your worries to bed with you, instead write down your concerns or create a “to do” list of things you need to accomplish. If your anxiety persists, ask your doctor if he/she recommends visiting a counselor or psychiatrist for further evaluation.
Adopting these simple good habits may help you rest easier, starting tonight!