Q. Who is at risk for sleep disorders?
A. The quick answer is everyone. There is a large array of sleep disorders, so anyone of any age could be at risk for some particular sleep disorder.
- Overweight, middle-aged men are more susceptible to sleep apnea than the general population.
- Middle aged women are more susceptible to insomnia.
- Children and adolescents experience more incidents of sleepwalking than other groups.
However, remember that anyone of any age or gender could suffer from any number of sleep disorders.
Q. How much sleep should a person get?
A. The amount of sleep required varies among individuals and by other factors, including age. Children and adolescents, for example, typically need more sleep than young and middle-aged adults.
The average adult needs anywhere from 7 to 8 ½ hours of sleep per night. The best way to know if you are getting enough sleep is whether or not you feel sleepy during the day. If you find yourself falling asleep during the day, you probably need to sleep more at night.
Your job or other activity can also be a factor. A boring or sedentary job or a routine activity can "unmask" your body's need for sleep. You're much more likely to feel sleepy if you're doing a desk job than if you are in an active profession, such as carpentry or mail delivery.
Q. I feel sleepy during the day. Does this mean I have sleep apnea?
A. Not necessarily. The leading cause of daytime sleepiness is simply not getting enough sleep at night. This is called insufficient sleep syndrome, and it affects as many as 80 percent of people who experience daytime sleepiness. The prime culprit in insufficient sleep syndrome is the typical American lifestyle - trying to cram too much activity into each day, which means we go to bed too late and get up too early. Children, adolescents and adults are all susceptible to this malady of modern society.
Click here to find out 10 tips on how to sleep better.
However, if you are getting plenty of sleep at night, yet still feel sleepy during the day, you may be experiencing some type of sleep disorder. In that case, it's a good idea to see your physician.
Q. How effective are over-the-counter products that claim to eliminate snoring and open up airways?
A. Overall, they are ineffective against sleep problems such as snoring and sleep apnea.
Nasal strips that are worn across the nose, for instance, may help somewhat with nasal congestion. However, nasal congestion is rarely a factor in severe disorders, such as sleep apnea. Instead, the problem is usually in the pharynx, the "breathing tube" that connects the mouth to the lungs, or the tongue, which may be enlarged or may rest against the pharynx during sleep. Nasal strips are completely ineffective in these instances.
Another product sold to help with sleep problems is a spray that claims to lubricate the airway, easing the flow of air into the pharynx. Though they sound good, these products rarely deliver on their claim, and are certainly no cure for sleep apnea and other severe sleep disorders.
Over-the-counter nasal decongestants might seem to work for a while, but they often backfire, leaving the user with as much or more congestion than he or she had to start with. If you think a nasal decongestant might help, it is better to go to your physician and ask for a prescription-strength decongestant.
Q. What about sleeping pills? Are they OK to use?
A. The answer is usually yes - but only for short-term sleeping problems. Research studies prove over and over again that sleeping pills are actually the worst treatment for chronic (long-term) insomnia. The reason is that sleeping pills merely cover up the underlying cause of the insomnia. After a while, you may develop a tolerance to or dependency on the sleeping pill and never really treat the reason for the insomnia in the first place.
To truly cure insomnia, you need to seek medical help to receive a diagnosis and treatment for the root cause of the insomnia.
Q. How can I get a sleep study at the Glendale Adventist Sleep Disorders Center?
A. A physician must give you a referral for a sleep study, so it's usually best to start with your personal physician. You may contact the Sleep Disorders Center at 818-409-8323 to get more information about receiving a referral for a sleep study.
Q. Does insurance cover sleep disorders diagnosis and treatment?
A. Most insurance companies now offer coverage for sleep studies and treatments such as CPAP. Some surgeries, however, are often not covered. Since individual policies differ - even those from the same insurance company - it's important to find out what coverage you have. The staff at the Glendale Adventist Sleep Disorders Center will be glad to check coverage with your insurance company. Just call the Sleep Center at 818-409-8323.