In recent years we have made tremendous progress in identifying the importance of sleep and the consequences of insufficient sleep. In a culture where the average person gets 6.5 hours of sleep a night (and at times much less) we see an increase in poor health and accidents that would otherwise be preventable. We used to believe that when we slept our brains and body would be inactive but, in reality, our brains during sleep are actually more active. The process results in rejuvenation of the mind and facilitates optimal brain function and memory.
Insufficient sleep results in fatigue, which markedly increases the risk of accidents. Good examples of this would be the Exxon Valdez and Chernobyl, as well as the frequency of motor vehicle accidents. It is estimated that over 100,000 motor vehicle accidents a year are due to insufficient sleep.
A good night's sleep is a basic building block of good health and is equally as essential as food and water. Insufficient sleep is linked to the development of heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes and obesity, so don’t neglect the importance sleep plays in your mental and physical health. If you believe your sleep is impaired, consider analyzing it with through the sleep program at this hospital. See your healthcare provider for a referral. We would be happy to help!
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
I frequently receive testimonials from patients regarding their response to CPAP for obstructive sleep apnea. As I reflect on these testimonials, I realize that I am seeing more and more overlap into health benefits that were originally unintended. Clearly we anticipate a better night's sleep with improvement in daytime alertness, blood pressure, heart health and safety. But I want to share with you a case that parallels what I seem to be seeing and hearing more often.
A 46-year-old woman presented to me with a chief complaint of fatigue. Her doctors were treating her for depression, chronic headaches and fibromyalgia. Over the course of more than 10 years she had a modest amount of improvement in her symptoms with her current medications. On examination she was overweight but otherwise appeared normal. Because of her history and pharyngeal anatomy we elected to rule out sleep apnea with an overnight sleep study. On the night of her sleep test she had mild snoring, fragmented sleep and stopped breathing 26 times per hour. These findings are consistent with moderate obstructive sleep apnea. Once started on CPAP therapy, her oxygen levels and sleep quality improved dramatically. After just three hours on CPAP she reported feeling better than she had in years. Over the course of the next few months she was weaned off her antidepressant medication, and she was no longer experiencing musculoskeletal pain and headaches. Her only regret was not having addressed her sleep many years ago
Obstructive sleep apnea can disturb your health and quality of life in so many ways. Though not all patients have a change this profound, many do. If you think you could have sleep apnea, alert your physician and proceed with the appropriate evaluation as soon as possible. Don’t wait!
Diabetes and Sleep
Sleep’s link to diabetes is fascinating and multi-faceted. The list of reasons to get a good night’s sleep has grown and is now encompassing this disease. In the setting of impaired sleep, studies have shown an elevation in blood sugars in both diabetics and non-diabetics. One study even showed blood sugar elevation and insulin resistance in healthy teen patients following sleep deprivation. But a study of diabetics with obstructive sleep apnea showed improved blood sugars following treatment with CPAP therapy. The diabetic patients treated with CPAP also frequently saw improvements in blood pressure and an associated reduction in vascular diseases associated with heart attacks and stroke.
The reason for the association between diabetes and sleep is not entirely clear. One of the reasons is likely to be the increase in activity following a good night’s sleep. Clearly if we are tired it is more likely to result in a sedentary life style—which we know is not good for diabetics. Also, in the setting of sleep deprivation, we can see elevations in insulin resistance and cortisol. These changes can also result in weight gain, which only heightens insulin resistance and blood sugars. So the message to all is to get 8 hours of quality sleep. This will not only influence your level of alertness, but may also indirectly influence your weight and blood sugars. If you question the quality of your sleep please talk with your healthcare provider. Comprehensive sleep services are available at your local hospital.