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The Shocking Effects of Sleep Loss on Your Mind and Health


Submitted by Koala Center for Sleep  Disorders

The first week of March is National Sleep Awareness Week — an annual public education and awareness campaign designed to promote the importance of quality sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, failing to get consistent, quality sleep can have negative consequences on your health and well-being. Getting enough sleep can help protect your mental and physical health and improve your quality of life.

Even one night of poor sleep can make you hungrier resulting in weight gain. You are also more likely to catch a cold, become overly emotional, and lose focus when sleep deprived. Over time, chronic sleep loss can put you at risk for heart disease, stroke, certain cancers, obesity, diabetes, and other diseases and conditions that negatively impact your overall health. Sleep deprivation can adversely affect the brain and cognitive functioning along with your memory and ability to focus. Sleep-deprived individuals are more likely to end up in automobile accidents. 

If you are suffering from daytime tiredness and fatigue, there may be a medical reason behind it. “For millions of Americans, sleep loss occurs on a nightly basis due to a condition known as obstruction sleep apnea (OSA),” says Dr. J. Todd Gray of the Koala Center for Sleep Disorders. OSA is a condition characterized by complete or partial airway obstruction which can occur when the tongue and muscles relax during sleep — the lower jaw falls back towards the throat causing the airway to become blocked. A typical sequence of OSA occurs when a person stops snoring and is silent for seconds or minutes and then snorts or coughs, often times witnessed by a spouse. For some with OSA, this can occur hundreds of times per night.

Unfortunately, many who suffer from OSA are unaware of it. In fact, according to the National Sleep Foundation, over 18 million adults in the U. S. suffer from obstructive sleep apnea and over 90 percent go undiagnosed. “Many of my patients thought they were getting a full night’s rest because they were ‘sleeping’ eight to nine hours, but they still woke up feeling tired,” says Dr. Gray. The repeated interruptions

Many often don’t realize their symptoms are a result of OSA. People often experience tiredness and associate it with stress, a busy lifestyle, or age. Others have morning headaches or wake with a foggy feeling making it difficult to think clearly. Many patients with OSA have high blood pressure and will try and regulate it with medications, not realizing it is directly related to their untreated sleep disorder. Additional signs of OSA may include snoring, snorting, acid reflux, insomnia, weight gain, heart disease, depression, frequent nighttime urination, and drowsy driving. Knowing the signs of OSA can help decrease the number of cases that go undiagnosed.

The symptoms of OSA can be very hard to live with for family members as well. “When apnea is accompanied by loud snoring, the bed partner may wake up as often during the night as the person with the sleep disorder,” says Dr. Gray. One study from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, found that spouses of snorers woke up an average of 21 times an hour, nearly as often as the 27 times the snorers were awakened by their apnea episodes.

Because OSA can have far-reaching effects on your life and the lives of your family members, it is important to talk with your healthcare provider about your symptoms. The next step is to have a sleep study performed, either in a lab or at home. A sleep study can help determine whether or not you have OSA. Once a diagnosis is made, you and your physician can examine treatment options.

“So many of my patients had no idea how much better they could feel after being treated,” says Dr. Gray. “Now you have a choice in treatment — oral appliance therapy provides an effective, scientifically-based treatment alternative to surgery or CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure). Patients may find the appliance more comfortable and easier to use,” Gray notes. The appliance is designed to hold the jaw in a position that allows the airway to remain as open and firm as possible during sleep. It is convenient and easy to travel with; therefore, patients are more inclined to use it regularly.

For more information, contact the Koala Center for Sleep Disorders by calling 309-319-6568 or visit their website at Dr. Gray has dedicated his practice to the treatment of snoring, sleep apnea, and TMJ disorders with oral appliance therapy. The custom-made appliances are covered by most major medical plans and Medicare. The Koala Center for Sleep Disorder accepts appointments without referrals but will work with your physician throughout treatment.

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