This has been a big year in sleep. The research and knowledge the public has about the importance of sleep has been mind boggling. I have been amazed at the new ideas shared and the growth of new ideas in therapy.
The connection to sleep deprivation and sleep apnea as an independent contributor to diseases from aging to cancer to diabetes to heart disease and glaucoma has really brought to light that sleep is essential. Some of the connections have to do with the continual decrease in oxygen caused by sleep apnea. Sleep deprivation has contributed to memory issues, and other issues of brain disease.
The use of therapies for sleep apnea and sleep deprivation have improved and take into account changes in lifestyle. The use of weight loss, cognitive behavioral therapy and oral appliances to treat mild apnea and PAP intolerance has improved and become more widely available. The idea that using more than one therapy to treat a person is something that really has helped to look more holistically at sleep disorders.
Some of the research also found that we are constantly walking around sleep deprived. Our teens and young adults are so plugged in that they are texting in their sleep. We have done a poor job of associating sleep with good grades and productivity to our young adults.
But to me the most exciting thing is the number of sites out there to educate people about sleep. Doctors, technologist and therapists have been working on changing the average American's view of sleep and its role in our health.
If we can continue to make sleep a priority and understand how much healthier we will be if we get a good night sleep we will have a great New Year.
We turn more and more to medications to solve our health problems. Although they usually can correct symptoms they do not necessarily correct the problem that is causing the problem. Many problems can be made worse by sleep deprivation and some may look like one health issue and actually be an sign of a sleep problem.
Is it depression or a sleep issue?
Many people who have a sleep issues have the same symptoms of depression. If you are tired all the time this could be due to sleep apnea or sleep deprivation as much as depression. If you wake in the morning with a headache or feeling like your thinking is blurry this is a common sign for sleep apnea. You probably spent the night with your oxygen levels going up and down, this keeps the brain from getting the oxygen and blood it needs throughout the night.
Your memory needs rest to work.
Many people whether you are a student getting ready for a test or a person who thinks that if they work just a few more hours they will get ahead are actually causing issues with their memory. When we sleep we go into certain stages of sleep. We start the beginning of the night going into slow wave sleep, this allows our body to heal and grow by releasing several hormones including human growth hormone. Later in the night we go through cycles of sleep and REM sleep. REM sleep is where we dream and is also where we take information and move it from short term memory to long term memory. If you disrupt this cycle you may miss the refreshment of your body and your mind.
High Blood Pressure, Diabetes and other conditions aggravated by Sleep Apnea
Try holding your breath. You will feel your heart start to pound and feel pressure building in your chest. Now imagine doing that all night long. Some people may only do this during certain positions or during certain stages of sleep. Other people do this all night long and get worse as the night goes on. The heart is stressed and has to work harder every time you hold your breath. Each time you are unable to breathe you cause stress. This stress releases cortisol which causes you to stress. This contributes to increases in your blood pressure and blood sugar.
Keep a diary see if your sleep is affecting your health.
We really do not think about how much or how well we sleep. Keeping a sleep diary will help you to determine if your sleep habits or your sleep quality is contributing to your problems. You should keep it for at least two weeks. During this time you should document the time you go to bed, how long you think it took you to go to sleep, the time you wake up and how long until you get out of bed. You should also document any time you get out of bed during the night and for how long. I would also keep track of how much caffeine you had consumed during the day, if you took a nap and for how long and any unusual exertive activities you may have done.
In the end it is as much up to you as it is up to your doctor to figure out what is causing your health problems. There are times when you can find that the solutions to your problem may not need a medication as much as it is small changes in your lifestyle or maybe be evaluated for a sleep disorder.