We are tired. We do not function to our potential.  Worse yet…we think that’s normal!  “I’m tired because I have kids” or “I’m tired because my job is stressful” or “I’m tired because I’m getting older.”  What if I told you that being tired, day in and day out isn’t normal? Not even because you have kids, or a stressful job, or you are older.

Some of us stay up too late doing work or watching television, and we know that starting to go to bed at 11 or 11:30pm, when we have to wake up at 6am, is not enough sleep. We’ve all heard for years that we need 7.5-8 hours of sleep per night, and many of us get 1/2 to 2/3 of that amount on a routine basis. This creates a “sleep debt” that cannot be repaid on the weekend by staying in bed all day!  Some of us do get to bed at a decent hour, and we should be getting (or think we are getting) 8 or 9 hours per night…but we still feel tired when we wake.  This is a different story, and means that the quality of sleep we are getting is not sufficient. This can mean a undiagnosed sleep disorder, such as Sleep Apnea or UARS (Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome) So…both the quality and quantity of sleep has to be enough to support healthy living.

That’s right…I said healthy living. There has been so much research over the last number of years relating serious medical problems to poor sleep or an untreated sleep disorder.  Here’s some statistics:

  • 1/3 of patients with Coronary Artery Disease have Obstructive Sleep Apnea
  • OSA increases your risk of a heart attack by 23%, which is as much as being an obese smoker with high blood pressure!
  • 65-80% of patients who have a stroke also have Sleep Apnea
  • OSA patients are 3 times as likely to develop Diabetes

Then, we have the “less major” side effects of poor sleep, such as:

  • weight gain, and difficulty with weight loss
  • night sweats
  • insulin resistance, so harder to manage diabetes
  • hormonal imbalances (think menopause)
  • erectile dysfunction
  • drug-resistant high blood pressure
  • GERD (Gastric-Esophogeal Reflux Disease)

Worried yet?  Or more importantly…are you or a loved one suffering from one of the above medical conditions? Then please, for your health, or theirs…consider a sleep study first to rule out the possibility of a sleep disorder.  Once treated properly, the incidence of the related illnesses decreases.

Please DO NOT get a “stop snoring” appliance from the pharmacy without having a sleep test.  This can make you (or your spouse) into a “silent apneic”…when you used to snore, your spouse would prod you to stop, but if you don’t snore, your spouse may not be aware that you actually don’t always breathe while you sleep.  If you want a statistic about this…approximately 1/2 of people who snore loudly have Obstructive Sleep Apnea.

Even more concerning is the effect of poor sleep on our children.  Hyperactivity, poor school performance, aggressive behavior, bedwetting, mouth breathing…sounds like a recipe for a diagnosis of ADD/ADHD.  It is easier (and less expensive) for medical doctors to recommend a pill for ADD/ADHD than it is to have a sleep study and diagnose a sleep disorder…but not as good for your child.  My suggestion: use your fancy cell phone and record (audio and video) your child sleeping.  Mouth open? Snoring? Restless? Difficult breathing or stopping breathing/choking sounds?  All of these indicate a sleep disorder, and the recording should be shown to your child’s pediatrician.  (By the way…you can also record your spouse the same way…especially if your spouse “doesn’t think there’s a problem.” )

How do I know why I am not sleeping well?

Having a family member record you with a cell phone or video recorder can really help your sleep doctor start to figure that out.  Then, you can continue with home sleep monitoring (available at some dental offices…like ours) or a lab-based sleep study where you go to a sleep lab for the night while you are monitored for changes in breathing, oxygen, blood pressure, heart rate. Any of these are great ways to find out if you have a sleep disorder.

So what happens if I am diagnosed with a sleep disorder?

Treatments can vary greatly, from changing sleeping position/bedding, to improving your bedtime routine, to a dental appliance, to a sleep apnea machine called CPAP, to surgery!  Until you have your sleep problem properly diagnosed, the cure can’t be offered.  Some of the options, like the dental appliance (made specifically for you at your dentist’s office) can be expensive ($2500 and up).  However…it’s a small investment if it helps you live 10 years (or more) longer…dying young comes at too great a cost! We would love to help you get better sleep and live longer, so please contact us (or your regular dentist or medical doctor) to get more information.