Tips for recognizing common sleep disorders

Published on Thu, Jul 15, 2010
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For many of us, our day begins as we hit our snooze button several times. Those extra 10 minutes of sleep rarely satisfy our desire for additional sleep, but we reluctantly drag ourselves out of bed. We then proceed to the kitchen where we consume the first of many cups of coffee, and wait for the caffeine to kick in. 

Although this may sound like a typical morning for many of us, the number of times you hit the snooze button may actually be an indication of a sleep disorder, and a dose of caffeine isn’t always the right answer.

A good night’s sleep is important to your well-being. Most people spend roughly one-third of their lives asleep, so it’s easy to see how the quality of sleep directly affects the quality of your life.

Loud snoring, gasping for breath while sleeping, night sweats, morning headaches and excessive sleepiness/and or falling asleep at inappropriate times throughout the day are all symptoms of a sleep disorder.

Common sleep disorders include:

Sleep Apnea: A temporary pause in breathing during sleep, typically followed by loud snoring. It is associated with high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and daytime sleepiness.

Narcolepsy: Chronic attacks of uncontrollable daytime drowsiness and sleep. It is sometimes associated with sudden uncontrollable muscle weakness when angry or scared.

Insomnia: Difficulty in initiating or maintaining sleep throughout the night. It may be caused by stress, depression, sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome, neurological disorders, medications or other medical conditions.

Other common sleep disorders: Sleepwalking, sleep tremors, rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder and restless legs syndrome.

If a sleep disorder is left unchecked, the condition can worsen over time and usher in a host of life-threatening problems.  In recent years, sleep disorders have been linked to a number of conditions that were previously thought to be unrelated, such as high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, depression, diabetes, obesity and premature aging. For many years, persons afflicted by sleep disorders remained largely undiagnosed. Fortunately, medical science has made great advances in diagnosing and treating these conditions.

The Peace Health Medical Group Sleep Disorders Center provides a multi-disciplinary approach to the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders.

Accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, our Center is directed by physicians who are board-certified sleep medicine specialists and staffed by highly-trained, experienced technicians.

Sleep medicine specialists are medical physicians who have completed their education in Internal Medicine, Family Medicine, Pediatrics, Neurology, Psychiatry or Pulmonology and then received more extensive training in sleep-related issues.

The Sleep Disorders Center utilizes the latest technologies in an environment designed to put patients at ease and has provided life-changing treatment for both adults and adolescents. The Center provides evaluations, treatment and support for sleeping disorders affecting patients of all ages. Identifying the problem is the first step. The sleep medicine specialist will review your health history and listen to your experience and may also perform a physical exam and/ or a sleep study.

Sleep studies are performed in order to understand what happens to your body while you’re asleep.  These studies are conducted in sleep labs, a comfortable setting with a private, home-like bedroom. Each room includes its own private, attached bathroom, television, VCR and DVD player. Monitoring sensors, that measure the patient’s heart rhythms, brain wave activity and breathing patterns, are attached to the patient. This procedure is non-invasive and painless. A board-certified sleep disorder specialist analyzes the results of the study to determine the cause of the sleep disorder. The specialist then recommends a treatment plan best suited for each individual patient’s condition.
If you or a loved one have any of the symptoms listed above, find out more about diagnosis and treatment options by contacting the Peace Health Medical Group Sleep Disorders Center at www.peacehealth.org/whatcom/phmg or call 360/752-5648.