When NOT Sleeping Becomes a Nightmare
Dr. Jeffrey Hagedorn - May 09, 2016
Feeling tired after a bad night's sleep may seem like an inevitable part of life, but sometimes it’s a sign of a more serious problem that can have a big effect on your health if you ignore it.

"Sleep disorder is a broad general term that covers a number of issues," says Dr. Jeffrey Hagedorn, medical director of the sleep program at Schneck. "Insomnia is one that can affect the quality of your life, but what is more concerning to the medical professional is sleep apnea, which is a serious health problem that needs to be addressed."
When you can't sleep
Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep, or waking up in the night and having trouble going back to sleep, and it's extremely common.

"Virtually everyone has a periodic problem with insomnia," says Dr. Hagedorn. "Almost 80 percent of people will have a week or two when they experience transient insomnia. When it persists for about three months, we start to call it chronic."

There are many causes of disordered sleep. "Sleep onset issues are generally caused by poor sleep hygiene, which means doing things that sabotage your sleep," he explains. "This includes exercise or caffeine too close to bedtime, smoking or too much technology in the bedroom."
Obesity, depression and anxiety are also common contributors to insomnia.
Waking in the night may be caused by a spouse's snoring, restless leg syndrome or, for post-menopausal women, hot flashes.
If you are experiencing chronic insomnia, discuss it with your primary care physician, who can recommend a number of ways to improve sleep hygiene. Your doctor can also prescribe safe and effective medications on a short-term basis, or may suggest cognitive or behavioral therapy or lifestyle changes, including losing weight and quitting smoking.
Poor quality sleep
Insomnia is unpleasant, but the other side of the not-sleeping coin can be deadly. Sleep apnea—when someone stops and starts breathing during sleep--is a much bigger worry for physicians than any other sleep disorder.
"Sleep apnea is a major risk factor for heart attacks and strokes," says Dr. Hagedorn. "People aren't necessarily referred to sleep labs for insomnia; it's out of the concern that there is a more serious problem."
Up to a third of the patients in a primary care general practice have sleep apnea, he estimates. In fact, sleep apnea is becoming so widely recognized as being closely linked to heart disease that many cardiologists routinely include a sleep study in their initial patient workups.
The condition is also more common as the population gets heavier, because obesity is a major risk factor. High blood pressure, diabetes, use of pain medication and a family history of the disorder have also been linked to sleep apnea.
If you think you or a loved one may suffer from sleep apnea, even in the apparent absence of other conditions, get a medical evaluation as soon as possible to help rule out more serious health problems.
What you can do
It’s hard to make up for not getting a good night's sleep. Many people reach for coffee, soda or chocolate, but that can become a vicious cycle of using caffeine to temporarily wake up and then being kept awake by the stimulant. What Dr. Hagedorn recommends, instead, is getting up and moving a bit when your energy starts to flag.
"Our circadian rhythm would like us to take a nap when we hit that afternoon dip," he says. "Since we can't, the common reaction is to eat something, which doesn't help and can add to weight issues. What may actually help is a burst of exercise; a quick walk or even just a couple of jogs up and down the stairs."
For more information on sleeping healthy, call Schneck Sleep Services at 812-522-0401.
4 tips for getting better shut-eye
1. Maintain a healthy weight
2. Avoid stimulants late in the day.
3. Keep your bedroom comfortable and free of distractions like TV or computer screens.
4. Exercise regularly, as early in the day as possible.
Sleep apnea symptoms
Many people suffer from sleep apnea and don’t realize it. Key signs to watch for include:
  • Feeling like sleep is not as restful as it once was. This is often attributed to "just getting older, but increased age doesn’t always equal poor sleep.
  • Being told you snore particularly loudly, make unusual noises or pause in your breathing.
  • Daytime sleepiness; not feeling rested and feeling sleepy at times you shouldn't be sleepy.
  • Changes in libido or personality.
  • Not being able to "catch up." If you get more sleep on the weekends but it still doesn't help, the problem is probably the quality of sleep, not the quantity.