Living Well

Do You Toss and Turn at Night? Call the Sleep Center

Last updated: Apr 24, 2017

For at least a decade, Jeri Del Vecchio-Mosnick woke up never feeling truly rested. She assumed her symptoms—irritability, forgetfulness, and lethargy—were simply from migraines.

Then one night when Jeri fell asleep on the couch her fiancée noticed that she would stop breathing and wake up gasping for air. Her doctor suspected she had sleep apnea—a potentially serious sleep disorder that causes breathing to be interrupted as many as hundreds of times throughout the night.

“I was skeptical that I had a sleep disorder, because I thought I was a really good sleeper. I could fall asleep right away at any time or in any place,” says Jeri.  “What I did not realize was that I was not getting solid, sound sleep.”

Everyone has the occasional bad night of sleep. But if you have difficulty dozing off several nights a week or trouble keeping your eyes open during the day, you may be among the nearly 40 million people who suffer from chronic sleep disorders in the U.S. Poor sleep does not just make us tired — it has a severe impact on our health, mood, and ability to function both at work and home.

“We spend nearly one-third of our lives asleep but few of us give it the respect it deserves. Most of us do not get enough sleep because our busy lifestyles undermine our ability to do two things—sleep enough hours and sleep well,” says Marc Benton, MD, co-director of The Sleep Center at Summit Medical Group.

Typically, adults need between 7 and 8 hours of shut-eye per night. However, Dr. Benton says everyone is different—some people’s bodies need 9 or more while others can manage on a little less than 6.      

“Everyone has the occasional restless night,” says Dr. Benton.  “But people who are consistently deprived of enough good sleep develop what is known as a sleep debt. They forget what it feels like to be truly rested. This feeling may be easy to overcome when you are young, but as you age it often catches up with you and begins to affect your health.”

Do you still feel tired when you sleep for 7, 8, or 9 hours? The quality of your sleep may be the culprit.

“Restorative sleep, or good quality sleep, is what allows the body and mind to feel rested when we wake up. Throughout the night, our brain needs to alternate between light and deep stages of sleep,” explains Dr. Benton.

 “For example, an individual with sleep apnea who is waking up because their breathing is constantly interrupted or a patient with restless legs who is constantly kicking may not enter deeper stages of sleep, will have more fragmented sleep, and will wake up feeling tired even if they slept for what should have been an adequate period of time.”

To make matters worse, Dr. Benton says that electronic devices like cell phones and IPads, stimulants such as coffee, soda, and energy drinks, and alcoholic beverages further affect our ability to get good sleep.

What are the Signs of a Sleep Disorder?

Like Jeri, many individuals who have a sleep disorder do not realize it. Talk to your medical provider if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Not feeling well-rested when you wake up
  • Getting up frequently to use the bathroom at night
  • Feeling excessively sleepy during the day
  • Having difficulty concentrating or with your memory
  • Feeling moody, irritable, or short-tempered
  • Getting frequent colds or infections

“Many people experience these symptoms and think they have a medical problem like an enlarged prostate or anxiety, but a sleep disorder is often the culprit,” says Dr. Benton.

Poor sleep not only causes you to feel tired and irritable, explains Dr. Benton. It also can affect your health in many ways — it makes it harder to fight off infection, lose weight, and contributes to medical problems like high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.  

The Sleep Center Partners with Patients to get Restful Sleep

Our specialists help identify a variety of sleep problems in adults and children over the age of 12 including:

  • Sleep apnea
  • Insomnia – inability to fall asleep and stay asleep
  • Limb movement disorders, such as restless less syndrome - cramping or jerking of the legs during sleep  
  • Narcolepsy – excessive sleepiness that causes individuals to uncontrollably fall asleep during regular daytime activities

Sleep studies are tests that are used to diagnose sleep disorders. The test can be performed while a patient spends the night in the sleep lab, or at home with a portable monitor—the sleep specialist will determine the appropriate type of study for you. During sleep testing they measure brain waves, eye movements, oxygen levels, heart and respiratory patterns, snoring, and body movements.

Dr. Benton worked closely with Jeri to create an optimal sleep environment. Together, they found an ideal CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine and mask, which Jeri wears on her face when she sleeps, to help her breathe more easily. There are a variety of other treatments employed for sleep apnea and the other sleep disorders, customized to the medical condition and the individual.  This may include medical devices, medications, and behavioral therapy, depending upon the underlying problem.

Ever since, Jeri began using her CPAP mask she has slept soundly. “It changed my life, I am alert and in a good mood in the morning. When I do not wear it I feel like the wind has been knocked out of me,” she describes.  

“Everyone at the Sleep Center wants you to do well.  They will go through every mask and model to find the one that is right for you.”

Managing sleep disorders can be a lengthy process, explains Dr. Benton. It often takes time and multiple visits.  

“A disorder like sleep apnea is the perfect example, because it requires matching the right person to the right treatment solution. For many sleep providers, the average treatment success rate is probably 30-60%, but in our program patients have an 80% success rate or higher,” he says.

Sleep disorders require many a multidisciplinary approach to care. We partner with:  

  • Primary care physicians – help identify potential sleep disturbances
  • Dentists – identify potential sleep disturbances and develop oral appliances that may be used for the treatment of sleep apnea
  • Ear, nose, and throat specialists – treat oral and sinus problems that negatively impact breathing during sleep
  • Behavioral therapists – identify and treat anxiety and depression that contribute to sleep difficulties
  • Bariatric surgeons and nutritionists – manage weight issues that make a patient more likely to develop sleep apnea 

References:

  1. Interview with Marc Benton, MD, co-director of the Sleep Center at Summit Medical Group. (3/12/17). 
  2. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep. Web.  
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