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Are you getting enough sleep?

By Mary W. Poole

Sleep disorders can lead to long-term health troubles

You know that you feel better when you awake from a full, restful night’s sleep. But do you realize that sleep problems, in addition to being a drain on your quality of life, can pose serious health threats? Nearly 70 million Americans of all ages and backgrounds are believed to suffer from sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, narcolepsy and insomnia. Yet only a small percentage of these are aware of the nature of their condition and that effective treatment is available.

What is a sleep disorder?

A sleep disorder is defined as a condition that interferes with your normal pattern of sleep and may cause fatigue, anxiety, depression, inability to concentrate and memory loss. All sleep disorders are serious, and some may be life threatening. Common disorders are:

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) – loud snoring and gasping or choking for breath during sleep due to an obstructed airway. If untreated, OSA may result in extreme fatigue and daytime sleepiness.

Insomnia – persistent inability to fall asleep or stay asleep. Over time, the lack of sound sleep may lead to excessive daytime sleepiness and fatigue.

Narcolepsy – sufferers frequently will become drowsy or fall asleep at inappropriate times and places. These “sleep” attacks can last from several seconds to more than 30 minutes and may occur even if the person has had a normal amount of nighttime sleep.

Restless Leg Syndrome – is characterized by crawling or tingling sensations in the legs while awake and an irresistible urge to move the legs during rest. Leg movement may cause frequent awakening and result in excessive daytime sleepiness.

Shift Work and Sleep

A shift worker is anyone who follows a work schedule that is outside of the typical “9 to 5” business day. As we become a 24 hour society, the demand for shift workers increases will millions of Americans now being classified as shift workers. This can involve any type of business from health care workers to pilots or refinery workers to commercial truck drivers. With the inconsistency of set work hours, many shift workers experience sleep disturbance which many times leads to excessive sleepiness. The lack of adequate sleep can lead to poor concentration, absenteeism, accidents, errors, injuries and even fatalities. This becomes even more alarming when we realize that many of these shift workers perform dangerous jobs such as firefighting, emergency medical personnel, law enforcement and security. The main complaint for people with shift work sleep disorder is excessive sleepiness. Other symptoms include insomnia, disrupted sleep schedules, reduced performance, difficulties with personal relationships, and irritability or depressed moods.

A sleep study at Baptist Hospitals of Southeast Texas, Orange Campus can help you identify if you have a sleep disorder before it leads to long-term health problems. To learn more about sleep testing at Baptist Hospitals of Southeast Texas, Orange Campus, call (409) 883-1375.

Mary W. Poole is Director Public Relations at Baptist Hospitals of Southeast Texas