Adults ideally spend about eight hours per day, 56 hours per week, and 2,688 hours per year sleeping. Nearly one-third of daily life is devoted to sleep.
Sleep disorders not only interfere with sleep. They can cause a decreased quality of life.
Dr. Bahram Kordlar, neurologist and sleep medicine specialist for Trinity Health, explained that several common sleep disorders can cause fragmented sleep. Those disorders include primary and secondary insomnia, sleep disordered breathing conditions such as obstructive sleep apnea, and restless leg syndrome.
Katina Tengesdal/MDN - - Dr. Bahram Kordlar, neurologist and sleep medicine specialist for Trinity Health, views data collected during sleep studies at Trinity’s Sleep Center.
Katina Tengesdal/MDN - - The CPAP, or continuous positive airway pressure, machine is a key treatment for many patients diagnosed with obstructive sleep apnea.
For patients with untreated disorders, there can be many unwanted effects.
"People who have sleep apnea are four times more prone to having high blood pressure," Kordlar said. "Apnea can also increase the risk of coronary heart disease, and can increase the risk of stroke. Apnea can also increase resistance in our body to insulin, which can aggravate underlying diabetes."
"For those with untreated insomnia, a common problem is decreased social performance," Kordlar said. "Insomnia, like apnea, can cause daytime sleepiness and increase the likelihood of accidents; and it can aggravate underlying psychiatric disorders."
For people who have either sleep disorder, proper diagnosis and treatment can help.
The most common symptom of obstructive sleep apnea is excessive daytime sleepiness, Kordlar explained. He said those who have apnea will often complain of daytime fatigue, morning headaches and decreased concentration. Other symptoms include a dry mouth, night sweats or snoring.
"Bed partners will most often notice the snoring, which is a night symptom of apnea," Kordlar said. "The snoring can be very loud. As the snoring gets louder, the likelihood that they have apnea increases."
"The patient might snore and then stop snoring, followed by a big breath," he added. "Some patients wake up gasping and snorting."
Sleep apnea is diagnosed in a sleep lab, where technicians monitor the patient while the patient sleeps. The technicians check the patient's airflow, chest and abdomen movements, blood oxygen level, heart rate and muscle activity measured by electrodes placed on the patient's head and chest.
If the patient is diagnosed, the most effective treatment is a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine, which a patient wears during sleep to help keep the airway open. Other treatments such as oral surgeries to correct anatomical abnormalities may help as well.
Insomnia is noted when a patient is unable to fall asleep or stay asleep. Insomnia can often be caused by underlying anxiety or depression, Kordlar said, in as many as 40 percent of cases.
"Insomnia patients can have fragmented sleep hours and wake up often," Kordlar said. "For insomnia, cognitive behavioral therapy and practicing good sleep hygiene often works best, and if other options fail, there are medications."
Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia focuses on helping a patient relieve their anxiety about not being able to fall asleep.
"In behavioral therapy, we work on changing a patient's perception toward insomnia," Kordlar said. "They shouldn't be afraid of not being able to fall asleep."
"We also work on building up sleep inertia, or sleep pressure," he added. "Sleep pressure develops as the longer we're awake, the more the sleep pressure builds up. Taking that 20 minute nap during the day can decrease the sleep pressure."
In learning good sleep hygiene habits, patients work on setting a fixed sleep/wake schedule pattern, staying away from caffeine in the afternoon and alcohol at night, and doing away with bad habits such as watching clocks when they are trying to fall asleep.