Warning Signs of Inadequate Sleep
Apr 07, 2011 05:10PM
● By Dr. Claire Stagg-Ruda
Snoring can be more than a disturbance to a bed partner. Although most snoring is harmless, loud and continuous snoring may be a warning sign for a serious and even life-threatening sleep disorder called sleep apnea, especially if it is accompanied by noticeable daytime sleepiness, or waking up without feeling refreshed.
Sleep apnea is characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep. People with the sleep disorder awaken frequently during the night gasping for breath. The resulting interrupted sleep can lead to excessive daytime sleepiness which, in turn, can cause symptoms of depression, irritability, learning and memory difficulties, and falling asleep in situations demanding alertness, such as while driving. Sleep apnea contributes to an increased risk for high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. Snoring on a frequent or regular basis has been associated with hypertension. Obesity can contribute to sleep apnea.
According to the National Sleep Foundation’s 2002 Sleep in America poll, snoring is a common problem among America’s adults. More than one-third of respondents (37%) report snoring at least a few nights a week, with more than one out of five (27%) indicating they snore every night. Because it can be a symptom of a serious problem, and one that can be treated, it is important for anyone who snores to discuss the problem with a health care provider.
The impact of our sleep habits goes beyond our health. There are many daytime consequences of a bad night’s sleep. Lack of sleep impairs work performance, increases the risk for injuries, and affects our mood and behavior.
The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) works to increase awareness about the importance of sleep and the treatment of sleep disorders. Many people may not be aware of symptoms that can signal inadequate sleep. These include:
• dozing off while engaged in an activity such as reading, watching TV, sitting in meetings or sitting in traffic;
• slowed thinking and reacting;
• difficulty listening to what is said or understanding directions;
• difficulty remembering or retaining information;
• frequent errors or mistakes;
• narrowing of attention, missing important changes in a situation;
• poor judgment in complex situations;
• difficulty coming up with a new approach to a problem when the old approach is not working;
• depression or negative mood;
• impatience or being quick to anger; and
• frequent blinking, difficulty focusing eyes, or heavy eyelids.
Any of these problems experienced on a regular basis may be related to an individual’s sleep habits and should be discussed with a doctor or other health care provider. However, self-management is an important first step and should include:
• Keeping a sleep diary, such as one available from the National Sleep Foundation. The one-week diary enables people to record their sleep habits and experiences as well as other daily activities that help identify patterns or conditions that might be causing a sleep problem.
• Reading "Talk to Your Doctor About Sleep," an informative NSF publication that gives suggestions of what to ask and tell the doctor about sleep habits, problems, and questionable symptoms.
• Making an appointment to see a doctor. Be prepared to identify specific sleep problems and how they affect you, especially during the day.
The "NSF Sleep Diary" and "Talk To Your Doctor About Sleep" are available on the NSF Web site, www.sleepfoundation.org, along with other valuable sleep-related information. Dr. Claire Stagg-Ruda works with the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) to help increase awareness about the importance of sleep and the treatment of sleep disorders. For more information call 321-777-2797.