Untreated, sleep apnea can cause:
- High blood pressure
- Cardiovascular disease
- Memory problems
- Weight gain
- Headaches and more
Fortunately, once sleep apnea is diagnosed, there are treatment options for patients.
Somewhere between 9 and 17% of the adult population will experience chronic or more ongoing difficulties with their sleep. More than 70 million Americans reported having some form of insomnia last year. Insomnia can occur at any point during the night, although some people will mainly have difficulty falling asleep while others will have difficulties staying asleep. Transient insomnia is defined as something that lasts less than two or three weeks. In addition, it is usually an identifiable problem occurring in the context of some other stress in the person’s life. Chronic insomnia is the most serious, is more often due to medical, neurological or psychiatric problems, and may require a thorough evaluation.
Other factors that often contribute to insomnia are:
- Poor sleep habits
- Extended use of medications or drugs
- Excessive intake of alcohol
Sometimes people need help breaking habits like napping during the day or avoiding stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine just prior to bedtime in order to treat insomnia.
Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)
If you have restless legs syndrome (RLS), you are not alone. Up to 10% of the U.S. population may have this neurological condition. Many people have a mild form of the disorder, but RLS severely affects the lives of millions of individuals. In order for you to officially be diagnosed with RLS, you must meet the criteria described below:
- You have uncomfortable sensations you describe as “creepy-crawly”, “pulling”, “the need to tighten your muscles” or a “gnawing” feeling that can only be relieved by getting up and moving around.
- The symptoms are worse at night when you are resting or during a long trip when you have been sitting a while.
- The symptoms are relieved when you stretch or move your legs. The relief continues as long as you continue to move or stretch. Restless legs syndrome frequently leads to insomnia.
Treatment for RLS varies from patient to patient. For some patients the treatment may include:
- Avoiding caffeine
- Warm/cold baths
- Electric nerve stimulation
- Oral magnesium
For others it may be a form of medication.
Narcolepsy is not rare, but it is an under-recognized and under-diagnosed condition. According to current estimates, the disorder affects about one in every 2,000 Americans-more than 135,000 individuals. After obstructive sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome, narcolepsy is the third most frequently diagnosed primary sleep disorder found in patients seeking treatment at sleep clinics. However, the exact prevalence rate remains uncertain, and the disorder may affect a larger segment of the population than currently estimated. Narcolepsy is a chronic neurological disorder caused by the brain’s inability to regulate sleep-wake cycles normally. At various times throughout the day, a person with narcolepsy experiences fleeting urges to sleep. If the urge becomes overwhelming, patients fall asleep for periods lasting from a few seconds to several minutes. In rare cases, some people may remain asleep for an hour or longer. Proper diagnosis of narcolepsy requires a visit to a sleep center for an evaluation and sleep study. Treatment involves a combination of medication, educational support and personal care.