Submitted by J. Todd Gray, DDS, Koala Center for Sleep Disorders
Think of your daily activities. Which activity is so important you should devote one-third of your time to doing it? Probably the first things that come to mind are working, spending time with your family, or doing leisure activities. But there’s something else you should be doing about one-third of your time—sleeping.
Many people view sleep as merely a “down time” when their brains shut off and their bodies rest. People may cut back on sleep, thinking it won’t be a problem, because other responsibilities seem much more important. But research shows that a number of vital tasks carried out during sleep help people stay healthy and function at their best.
While you sleep, your brain is hard at work forming the pathways necessary for learning and creating memories and new insights. Without enough sleep, you can’t focus and pay attention or respond quickly. A lack of sleep may even cause mood problems. Also, growing evidence shows that a chronic lack of sleep increases your risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and infections.
Despite growing support for the idea that adequate sleep, like adequate nutrition and physical activity, is vital to our well-being, people are sleeping less. The nonstop “24/7” nature of the world today encourages longer or nighttime work hours and offers continual access to entertainment and other activities. To keep up, people cut back on sleep. A common myth is that people can learn to get by on little sleep (such as less than 6 hours a night) with no adverse effects. Research suggests, however, that adults need at least 7–8 hours of sleep each night to be well rested, although the average adult now sleeps fewer than 7 hours a night.
While many people intentionally cut back on sleep for various reasons, there are an astounding 18 million Americans who are not able to get a good night’s sleep because they suffer from sleep apnea—a common disorder in which a person has many pauses in breathing while sleeping. The result is that even if they are getting eight or more hours of sleep, the quality of sleep is very poor so they experience daytime sleepiness that interferes with work, driving, and social functioning.
It is believed that 90 percent of the people who suffer from sleep apnea or sleep disordered breathing have not been diagnosed with the condition. It isn’t usually detected during routine office visits and there isn’t a test—like a blood test—that can give a diagnosis. Most people who have sleep apnea don’t know they have it because it only occurs during sleep. A family member or bed partner might be the first to notice signs of sleep apnea which often includes loud snoring.
If you have any symptoms of sleep apnea, it’s very important to consult your physician so a proper diagnosis can be made. There are many treatments for sleep apnea including lifestyle changes such as losing weight or sleeping on your side, continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), or oral appliance therapy.
For more information on sleep disordered breathing or chronic sleep loss contact Dr. Todd Gray at the Koala Center for Sleep Disorders, 309-319-6568 or online at bloomingtonsleep.com. The office is located at 2309 E. Empire St., Suite 500 in Bloomington. Dr. Gray is devoted to the management of sleep-related breathing disorders, such as snoring and sleep apnea, with oral appliance therapy as well as conservative treatment of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, headaches, facial pain and teeth-grinding. Oral appliance therapy is covered by most medical insurances and Medicare.