A sleepy epidemic

When you hear the word epidemic, sleep is not the first thing that comes to mind. Instead, you might think of swine flu, or some other contagious disease that spreads rapidly out of control. By definition, however, an epidemic is the widespread occurrence of a condition or disease. According to the CDC, an “estimated 50-70 million US adults have sleep or wakefulness disorder.” While the National Sleep Foundation suggests that “adults need 7-9 hours” of sleep, the actual average is 1-2 hours below the required levels.

This is a problem because “persons experiencing sleep insufficiency are also more likely to suffer from chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, depression, and obesity, as well as from cancer, increased mortality, and reduced quality of life and productivity.” Not only does a lack of sleep lower your quality of life, but it can actually put life at risk!

There are many sources for this problem. One cause that we are increasingly becoming aware of is Sleep Apnea – a condition in which you comes out of deep sleep several times a night. Because of this, you don’t get enough REM sleep, which your body needs.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (or OSA) is the most common type of Apnea. OSA occurs often due to soft tissues collapsing to block free airflow. One treatment for OSA involves surgery to open up the airways. A less invasive solution is the CPAP machine (Continuous Positive Airway Passage). The patient wears a mask of some sort while sleeping which keeps his or her airways open with a continual flow of air.

I personally suffer from OSA, and I am constantly looking for the best treatments for myself and my patients. To learn more about CPAP machines, alternatives to CPAP machines (like Somnodent), and the symptoms of OSA, click here.