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6 signs it is time to see a sleep specialist

If you are suffering from lack of sleep and wonder if you should see a sleep specialist, Dr. Kelly Carden with Sleep Medicine of Middle Tennessee offers these top six reasons you might want to see a sleep specialist.

Insomnia – Insomnia is the most common sleep complaint, seen in as many as 30 percent of adults. The effects of insomnia can impact nearly every aspect of life. The causes, symptoms and severity of insomnia vary from person to person. Insomnia may include:

  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Waking up too early in the morning
  • Poor quality of sleep

There are two types of insomnia based on duration of the problem.

  • Acute Insomnia:  Insomnia lasting only a short time – from several nights up to three weeks – and goes away without treatment. 
  • Chronic Insomnia: Insomnia that lasts more than three weeks. Nearly 1 in 10 people have chronic insomnia that would benefit from treatment.

Sleep apnea – Obstructive sleep apnea is a common and serious sleep disorder that causes abnormal breathing during sleep. The breathing passageway repeatedly becomes narrowed or blocked.  Loud snoring, choking in sleep, pauses in breathing, body restlessness are signs of sleep apnea. During the day, patients tend to feel fatigued/tired, have difficulty concentrating or may unintentionally lapse in to sleep. There are long-term consequences of untreated sleep apnea including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease including heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Pre-diabetes and diabetes
  • Depression

A sleep medicine physician can diagnose obstructive sleep apnea using an in-lab sleep study or a home sleep test. Sleep apnea is manageable using positive airway pressure (PAP) to open the airway, oral appliances to reposition the jaw, and surgery.   

Narcolepsy – (NAR-ko-lep-see) Narcolepsy is a lifelong sleep and wakefulness disorder causing severe daytime sleepiness and poor quality sleep at night.  About one in 2,000 people have some form of narcolepsy. The cause of narcolepsy is not fully understood, but recent research suggests that many people with classic narcolepsy have low levels of a particular chemical in the brain.  Some patients with narcolepsy also experience cataplexy. Cataplexy is a sudden loss of muscle tone while awake, most commonly associated with an emotional trigger.

Jet lag – Jet lag occurs when traveling across multiple time zones.  The body has a natural “circadian” rhythm that is disrupted when trying to adjust to a new schedule. The severity of the jet lag depends on how many time zones crossed and the direction traveled. Flying eastward is usually a more difficult adjustment than westward travel. It is estimated that it takes one day per time zone traveled to adjust to local time. Jet lag is generally a temporary condition, but if you travel often and don’t seem to recover from the change in time zones or feel like the jet lag is interfering with your sleep you may want to seek out a sleep specialist.

Shift work – Shift work disorder occurs when a person has difficulties adjusting to a work schedule that takes place during a time that most people sleep. A conflict develops between the body’s natural (circadian) rhythm and the required work schedule. Shift work can cause difficulty sleeping, non-restorative sleep, and tiredness. Job performance can be affected, putting shift workers at risk for making mistakes or getting injured on the job. If you have recently been put on a different work shift or if you have unusual work hours, your sleep cycle may be interrupted and you may have shift work sleep disorder.

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) – Restless legs syndrome is a neurological disorder that causes an overwhelming urge to move the legs. Movement or walking tends to help for a short time.  The symptoms are usually worse at night. In some people, RLS makes it difficult to get comfortable enough to fall asleep. People with RLS can also have trouble sitting still for long periods of time (long car rides or airplane travel).

Women are nearly twice as likely as men to develop RLS. More than half of people with restless legs syndrome have a pattern of it in their family, as the risk is about three to six times greater. Some cases of RLS may not be severe enough to get medical attention but if you have RLS that is disturbing your sleep you may need to see a specialist.

Not getting proper amounts of sleep can impact your daily life. Lack of sleep or sleep disorders can affect your career, family life and even be a contributor to health problems, anxiety and depression.

Dr. Kelly Carden with Sleep Medicine of Middle Tennessee sees patients at Saint Thomas Midotwn Hospital and Saint Thomas West Hospital. To make an appointment at Midtown, 300 20th Ave. N., please call 615.284.7533. To make an appointment at West, 4230 Harding Road, please call 615.284.7533

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