Sleep apnea is a sleep condition that causes one's breathing to pause recurrently and temporarily during sleep. Once breathing stops, the brain forces the body to wake up and continue breathing. The sleeping disruption prevents good sleep and causes you to feel drowsy and tired during the day. Daytime sleepiness is not the only consequence…
Patient Quick Guide to Sleep Medicine
As its name implies, sleep medicine is the study, diagnosis and treatment of sleep-related disorders in children and adults. Restful, regular sleep is crucial to a healthy lifestyle, and a lack of quality rest can have a negative impact on the body physically, mentally and emotionally. Those who do not receive adequate rest are at an increased risk for several conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, obesity and kidney disease. Focus and memory can be seriously impaired and learning may become more difficult. Mood swings, depression and anger can also result from insufficient sleep. To avoid this myriad of unhealthy side effects, it is important for those who suffer from sleep disorders to seek evaluation from a medical doctor or board-certified sleep medicine dental professional.
The most common sleep disorders
Sleep apnea is one of the most common types of sleep disorders affecting Americans today. It occurs when breathing repeatedly stops and restarts during sleep. Insomnia is also relatively prevalent and involves frequent difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep. Other types of sleep disorders may seem less severe, but can still have a highly negative impact on health and overall well-being. Snoring, bruxism (clenching or grinding of the teeth) and even acid reflux can be considered serious medical conditions if they impact restful sleep.
Medical professionals involved in sleep medicine
People suffering from one of the many types of sleep disorders, regardless of perceived severity, should schedule an appointment for evaluation, diagnosis and treatment. Depending on the patient’s symptoms and medical history, a referral may be scheduled with one or several professionals who study and practice sleep medicine. These may include a dental specialist, pulmonologist, psychiatrist, neurologist or otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat doctor/ENT). In many cases, several professionals will work as a team to develop a proper and well-rounded treatment plan for the patient.
Diagnostic and treatment procedures
When an individual reports trouble sleeping, several diagnostic procedures may be ordered to determine the cause and acuteness of the condition. Often coupled with blood work, a physical exam is typically performed to search for physical abnormalities or obstructions that could lead to impaired sleep.
Patients may be ordered to keep a sleep journal to record the frequency of specific symptoms and possible contributing factors, like dietary choices or stress. In some cases, a sleep study may be ordered to measure heart rate, oxygen levels, brain activity and body movement. Once a diagnosis is made, treatment plans could include medication or supplements, physical therapy, corrective devices and/or surgery.
Difficulty sleeping is common among all individuals at certain stages of life. However, if the difficulty persists and begins to impact quality rest and a healthy lifestyle, it is important to consult a board-certified sleep medicine specialist for evaluation. Ignoring the problem could result in a major decline in health as well as the development of a serious disease or condition. However, with a proper diagnosis and treatment, many people are able to enjoy regular, deep sleep.
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