Treating Sleep Disorders

Sleep remedies: Solutions for two common sleep disorders

If you’re always tired, sleepy and simply can’t seem to get enough rest, you’re not alone: It’s estimated that 70 million Americans have a sleep or wakefulness disorder. According to the Centers for Disease Control, insufficient sleep is a growing public health epidemic affecting the nation’s work performance, productivity and health.

Two of the most common sleep disorders are sleep apnea and insomnia.

“Sleep apnea is an intermittent blockage in the back of the throat at the base of the tongue, which ruins sleep and makes it non-refreshing,” explains Laurence A. Smolley, MD, Chair, Department of Pulmonary Medicine and Medical Director, Sleep Disorders Center  at Cleveland Clinic Florida.

Symptoms of sleep apnea include snoring, waking up tired or with a headache. Sleep apnea can be treated by using a continuous positive airway pressure therapy (CPAP) machine. With CPAP, an air blower forces air through a mask worn over the nose and mouth. The air pressure is adjusted so that it is just enough to prevent upper airway tissues from collapsing during sleep. The pressure is constant and continuous. CPAP prevents airway closure while in use, but apnea episodes return when CPAP is stopped or it is used improperly. Other styles and types of positive airway pressure devices are available for people who have difficulty tolerating CPAP.

Finding the correct treatment for a sleep disorder is critical because studies show that people who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to have chronic diseases like hypertension, diabetes and depression.

For a third of Americans who have the less severe sleep disorder insomnia, Dr. Smolley suggests adopting good sleep rituals like meditating, praying or reading something that’s pleasant.

“Any bright light should be eliminated in the hour or two before bedtime because bright lights are too stimulating,” he adds. That includes not using your phone and computer or watching television in bed.

“Watch TV in the family room or the living room. Then when you become sleepy, go to the bedroom,” Dr. Smolley suggests.

But the most important ritual of all, he says, is to wake up every morning at the same time, even on the weekends.

“People tend to sleep too late, or they stay in bed too late. The whole idea for health is to try to maintain a regular schedule.”

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