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Help! I can’t sleep: Dealing with sleep disorders

<p><span style="font-family: helvetica;"><img src="/nairobi/PublishingImages/Sleep%20body%20image.jpg" alt="" style="margin: 5px;"/></span> </p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Sleep is essential for health. It refreshes the mind and repairs the body. Lack of sleep can cause fatigue, poor concentration and memory, mood disturbances, impaired judgement and poor physical coordination putting one at risk of accidents and injury.</span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Sleep disorders are conditions that disturb your normal sleep patterns. Some people who feel tired during the day have a true sleep disorder, but for others, the real problem is not allowing enough time for sleep. The amount of sleep you need depends on several factors, including age, lifestyle and health. Most adults need about seven to eight hours each night.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">What are some common sleep disorders?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;"><strong><em>Insomnia:</em></strong> Is the inability to fall asleep and stay asleep and is the most common sleep disorder. People with insomnia also experience excessive daytime sleepiness and other cognitive impairments. Insomnia is considered a chronic condition when patients exhibit symptoms at least three times per week for three months. Up to one third of adults live with some form of insomnia.</span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;"><strong><em>Sleep apnea:</em></strong> Is a common breathing related disorder that occurs due to blockage of the upper airway. People with this condition stop breathing for ten seconds, or more during sleep and often wake up choking or gasping for air. The most common cause of obstructive sleep apnea is excessive weight which is associated with the soft tissue of the mouth and throat. During sleep when throat and tongue muscles are more relaxed, the soft tissue can cause the airway to be blocked.</span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;"><strong><em>Restless leg syndrome (RLS): </em></strong>This is characterized by throbbing, itching, and other painful sensations in the legs and powerful urges to move the legs while they are at rest. People with RLS typically experience the strongest symptoms in bed, putting them at an increased risk for sleep-onset and sleep maintenance problems.</span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;"><strong><em>Hypersomnia:</em></strong> Excessive daytime sleepiness is a condition characterized by uncontrollable yawning, heavy eyelids, and the powerful urge to doze off during the day. Hypersomnia is different from feeling tired all the time. People with this condition regularly take a nap during the day and not feel refreshed, they fall asleep while eating, or talking and still sleep for long hours at night.</span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;"><strong><em>Snoring: </em></strong> Snoring is the sound made when breathing is blocked while a person is asleep. This is caused by tissues at the top of the airway that strike each other and vibrate. Snoring is common, especially among older and overweight people.  When severe, snoring can cause frequent awakenings at night and daytime sleepiness</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">What causes sleep disorders?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">There are different causes for different sleep disorders. Generally disorders may result from a wide range of medical and psychological conditions such as diabetes, hypothyroidism, heart and lung disease, nerve disorders, chronic pain, depression, anxiety and medications. Sometimes the cause is unknown.</span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">There are also some factors that can contribute to sleep problems including: poor sleeping habits, caffeine and alcohol, an irregular schedule (such as working the night shift). Aging also affects the quality of sleep, as people age, they often get less sleep and are also more easily awakened.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">Some symptoms of sleep disorders</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">The symptoms of sleep disorders depend on the specific disorder. Some signs include : taking more than 30 minutes each night to fall asleep, or waking up several times each night and then have trouble falling back to sleep, or waking up too early in the morning. Often feeling sleepy during the day, taking frequent naps, or falling asleep at the wrong times during the day are also symptoms.</span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">You could also be suffering from a sleep disorder if you are told that you snore loudly when you sleep, snort, gasp, make choking sounds, or stop breathing for short periods. Another sign is having a creeping, tingling, or crawling feelings in your legs or arms especially in the evening and when trying to fall asleep. These are only relieved by moving or massaging them.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">How are sleep disorders diagnosed?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">To make a diagnosis, the health care provider will use your medical and sleep history, and a physical exam. You may also have to undergo a sleep study (polysomnogram). This monitors and records data about your body during a full night of sleep. The data includes brain wave changes, eye movements, breathing rate, blood pressure, heart rate and electrical activity of the heart and other muscles</span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Other types of sleep studies may check how quickly you fall asleep during daytime naps or whether you are able to stay awake and alert during the day.</span></p><p><strong style="font-family: helvetica;">Are there treatments for sleep disorders?</strong></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;">Treatments depend on the sleep disorder and the severity. Therapists may suggest cultivating good sleep habits and other lifestyle changes, such as a healthy diet and exercise, cognitive behavioral therapy or relaxation techniques to reduce anxiety. Continuous positive airway pressure machine will help with sleep apnea, medicines (including sleeping pills used for a short while), or weight loss for snoring and sleep apnea.
</span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;"><strong><em>By Dr David Musyoka, Consultant ENT and Head and Neck Surgeon at Aga Khan University Hospital Nairobi</em></strong>
</span></p><p><span style="font-family: helvetica;"><strong><em>This article was first Published in Business Daily in December 19, 2022</em></strong></span></p>

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