Monday, March 7, 2011

National Sleep Awareness Week: Not a Snooze

March 7 - 13 marks National Sleep Awareness Week, an educational campaign to remind people about the importance of sleep. It’s believed that the vast majority of sleep disorder cases go undiagnosed, and therefore many people suffer unnecessarily.

However, a lack of quality sleep can be dangerous and lead to motor vehicle accidents, if not to other types of health risks. If you have one or more of these signs of a sleep disorder, please contact your primary care doctor:

• Daytime sleepiness
• Frequent nighttime urination
• High blood pressure
• Irritability or moodiness
• Loud, irregular snoring
• Memory loss
• Morning headaches
• Poor concentration

If you’re a loud snorer who doesn’t feel rested enough during the day, you may be unwittingly putting your heart at risk. That’s because you could have untreated Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA), a disorder directly linked to several cardiovascular syndromes that cause premature death. OSA, in which the upper airway becomes blocked repeatedly during sleep, is a condition that’s estimated to affect 24 percent of men and 8 percent of women.

Over the past decade, several studies have linked OSA to high blood pressure. Patients who require three or more medications to control hypertension have an 80 percent chance of having OSA. Also, compared to the general population the prevalence of OSA is significantly higher among patients with chronic heart failure (50 percent higher), atrial fibrillation (50 percent higher) and coronary artery disease (40 percent higher). For patients with these heart conditions, a sleep study is crucial; if their OSA goes undiagnosed and untreated, they will have a doubled risk for death during the next 5 years.

Given OSA’s direct connection to the heart, it’s important for all OSA patients that it be treated as soon as possible. However, it’s believed that between 80 percent and 90 percent of people with OSA have not yet been diagnosed. Please talk with your doctor as soon as possible if you have one or more of these symptoms:

• Cessation of breathing during sleep, and then waking up with a gasp (most often observed by another)
• Loud, irregular snoring
• Restless sleep with frequent (and possibly unnoticed) awakening
• Morning headache, dry mouth and/or sore throat
• Daytime sleepiness
• Irritability and/or impaired concentration
• High blood pressure

A sleep disorder can only be diagnosed through a sleep study, in which things such as one’s breathing, heart rate, muscle movements and blood oxygen levels are measured while he or she sleeps. Both Sinai and Northwest hospitals have American Academy of Sleep Medicine accredited sleep centers, where sleep studies are performed on all nights of the week. For more information about either center, please contact 410-601-WELL (9355).
-Holly Hosler

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