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Sleep disorders in general is a cluster of syndromes characterized by the disturbances in a person’s sleep. It is a medical disorder in which the person’s quantity, quality, or behaviors in sleep is interfered. This normally results in poor physical, mental and emotional functioning. As sleep is one of the human body’s biological rhythms, it is not startling that there are many different varieties of sleep disorders, each with its own symptoms, causes, and treatments. The symptoms of these sleep disorders must be a persistent problem for an effective diagnosis to be done, persistent enough to cause the patient considerable emotional distress, and also interfere with basic social and occupational functioning as well as daily activities. Besides that, sleep cycles differ with a person’s age, in which children and adolescents usually have longer sleep cycle than do older people. Because of this variation, doctors or medical experts always take the patient’s age into account when detecting a sleep disorder. Sleep disorders are categorized based on its causes. Primary sleep disorders are sleep disorders that are not caused by other external factors. Primary sleep disorders can be further divided into two groups. First, there is the primary sleep disorder in which the person affected suffers from alterations in the quality of their sleep. As an example, the most imperative type is insomnia, which is the difficulty in sleeping that lasts for at least a month. Other examples of include hypersomnia, narcolepsy, and sleep apnea. On the contrary, there are primary sleep disorders in which the behavior of the patient is severely affected. It is also known as disorders of physiological arousal during sleep. Examples of this include nightmares, sleep terror, and somnambulism. Besides the primary sleep disorders, there are three groups of sleep disorders that are linked to substance abuse or other physical or mental disorders. First of all, there are sleep disorders related to mental disorders. Numerous mental disorders, especially depression, can easily set off sleep disturbances. Next, there are also sleep disorders due to medical conditions. Patients suffering from chronic neurological conditions possibly will develop sleep disorders as well. Lastly, there are substance-induced sleep disorders too. The abuse of alcohol, drugs and caffeine regularly generates sleep disorders. In addition to substance and alcohol abuse, prescription medications can easily affect sleep patterns as well. For the diagnosis of sleep disorders, the history of problems faced by the patient is necessary. These steps are useful starting points during assessment of the problem, and the doctor may also speak to other family members to get more information about the patient’s symptoms. This is important as the informations obtained are mainly the patient’s symptoms and behaviors that the patient cannot remember. The treatment for a sleep disorder generally depends on what is causing it. Mainly, the treatment for each sleep disorder is different, ranging from surgery to altering the patient’s lifestyle. However, there are also several alternative treatments for certain sleep disorders. Among them are meditation practice, yoga, and breathing exercises. Meditation can keep patients from obsessing about sleep or worrying too much about their own sleep disorders. The use of melatonin is extremely common in the treatment of sleep disorders, whereby it is a hormone already present in our body which is secreted by the pineal gland in our brains. These unorthodox methods are always trial and errors, as it does not work for every patient and for every sleep disorder. Last but not least, the prognosis of each sleep disorder depends on the specific disorder itself. The prognosis for sleep disorders that are caused by other external factors relies on the ability to overcome these external factors first. Conversely, the prognosis of primary sleep disorders is affected by several conditions, mostly about the personal life of the patient and the way the patient leads his or her life in the past.
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder which is very serious and is a potentially life-threatening condition. It is far more common than many people think it is as generally patients have absolutely no idea that he or she has it and patients tend to be skeptical when being told that they are diagnosed with it. Generally, sleep apnea is known as a breathing disorder, severely affecting the ability to breathe properly during sleep. Described as brief interruptions of breathing, patients are oblivious of having troubles breathing, even when they are already wide awake, or upon awakening. Sleep apnea is divided into two categories, the first being central sleep apnea and the other one being obstructive sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea, which is atypical, takes place when appropriate brain signals are not sent to set off respirations in breathing muscles. On the other hand, obstructive sleep apnea, which is very often found, is triggered by the inability of air to flow in and out for regular respiration process to persist, despite the fact that attempts to breathe continue. A patient suffering from sleep apnea experiences brief halts in breathing, which is involuntary, and is accompanied by snoring for almost all of the cases reported. However, not everyone who snores suffers from sleep apnea, which is a common misconception among the general masses. The awareness of having the choking feeling in patients is common, and this is mainly due to the irregular process of respiration. As a result, morning headaches have a tendency to trouble patients, as well as excessive feeling of sleepiness during the day, which gives the wrong impression to the general masses that they are either staying up until the wee hours of the morning or that they are nocturnal. This wrong impression given could dampen the hope of graduates looking for a job or would cause employers to wrongly dismiss their employees who are just suffering from this condition. Fatigue is also a common symptom in patients, reducing the efficiency in carrying out daily activities by these patients. They experience such excessive fatigue as though as they had just finished a marathon, but in reality sleeping is the only activity that they had accomplished. The detection of sleep apnea has to be as early as possible and it has to be treated accurately because the association of sleep apnea with chronic diseases is very common and this could pose a serious threat to the well being of a patient if left unnoticed.
Even though sleep apnea is found to be more distinctive in men, it may be under diagnosed in the other sex. Everybody of all ages may have sleep apnea, which makes it a very common sleep disorder. Usually, those who snore loudly, and are overweight as well, have a higher chance of suffering from sleep apnea. In certain cases, sleep apnea seems to run in the family, generating a possible genetic basis that sleep apnea is passed down from generation to generation. To find the proper treatment for sleep apnea, we must first understand what causes this predicament. In general, mechanical and structural problems in the passage of air flow in a person lead to breathing difficulties which in turn causes sleep apnea. Other factors that cause the passage of air flow in a person to be blocked include the presence of excess amount of tissue, which is mostly found in obese people. While efforts to breathe with a narrowed passage of air flow continue, heavy snoring occurs. Intriguingly, the person is clueless that he or she is snoring. On the contrary, taking alcohol increases the frequency of breathing difficulties occurring in people with sleep apnea. On every occurrence of breathing difficulty, our brain responds by reopening the passage of air flow. Once a loud snort or gasp is heard, this signals that the breathing process of the patient has resumed normally. However, frequent occurrence of this event, although necessary, prevents the patient from enjoying a good night’s sleep.
In most cases, the spouses of patients are the first person to suspect something amiss in their respective partners. Heavy snoring for instance is a cue that something might be wrong with the process of sleeping. Another symptom which can be easily detected by the patient’s spouse is the apparent struggle to respire. When symptoms of sleep apnea start appearing, it is vital to immediately seek medical attention for a thorough evaluation of the sleep disorder. The process of evaluating a sleep disorder is never simple, as there are many reasons as to why a person’s sleep is disturbed. For example, polysomnography is one of the ways to evaluate a person for sleep apnea. Under normal circumstances, these diagnostic tests are carried out in a sleep center, but further advancement in technology in recent times have created the option for patients who opt for the test to be done in the comfort of their homes. The treatment for sleep apnea differs in each patient, whereby a type of treatment only works for certain patients. Thus, special, one of a kind therapy for sleep apnea has to be tailored to the patient based on several factors. For sleep apnea, medications are deemed useless in the treatment of the problem. Furthermore, oxygen administration to patients is very controversial, as results show irregularity in the effectiveness of this method in each patient, some responding positively to it while others respond negatively to it.
As an alternative, sleep apnea mouthpiece helps to get rid of this condition in less severe cases or to diminish the degree of discomfort due to sleep apnea. Usually made out of plastic, they are generally dental appliances which prevent any unwanted obstructions in the passage of air flow. This mouthpiece is used at night, or specifically during sleep. Another interesting fact is that it is also utilized by people who snore, not only patients suffering from sleep apnea but also healthy people who just happen to snore when they sleep. As the problem of snoring is solved with this mouthpiece, it is also widely known as the stop snoring mouthpiece. Furthermore, each mouthpiece is specially made by orthodontists for every patient. Hence, the cost of this mouthpiece varies from patient to patient. Until now, the most effective solution to sleep apnea is still the continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment. Because of this, the prescription of the utilization of CPAP treatment are very often done, both by medical practitioners and the general masses alike who are familiar with this method of treatment. The CPAP treatment is in the form of the usage of a CPAP mask that allows patients to have a good night’s sleep, free from any respiration difficulties. As the array of CPAP treatment available in the market nowadays is vast, ranging from CPAP masks to CPAP pillows, it is extremely vital for a patient to undertake researches on what qualities of a CPAP mask that is suitable and is needed by the patient. Moreover, even medical practitioners are inclined to ask their patients to find their own masks for maximum suitability and the best value for their money spent on it. In general, the most common CPAP treatment are the CPAP masks, especially those triangular in shape ones and covers both the patient’s mouth and nose perfectly with straps around it to hold the mask in place.
On another note, there are also dental appliances that act as a solution to sleep apnea. These appliances help in the reposition of the lower jaw and the tongue as well. Uniquely, this distinctive method does not only work for mild sleep apnea patients, but also people who snore when they sleep and are free from sleep apnea. Side effects however, are present for this method. Hence, a visit to the orthodontist is necessary for patients who wish to undergo this method of treatment. For sleep apnea, the last resort for some patients is surgery. With surgery, everyone is aware that there are risks in undergoing it and none of them is completely successful. Those who deem surgery as a risk free method are merely ignorant as more than one surgical procedure is obligatory before the benefits set in. In addition to that, surgery that treats obesity is essential for morbidly obese sleep apnea patients, as obesity is one of the main reasons for sleep apnea to occur. Other than focusing on sleep apnea involving children and adults alike, senior citizens as well are prone to this condition, and alarmingly sleep apnea is under diagnosed in elderly patients as many people deem that senior citizens who snore are very much normal and there is no need for any worry and concern. Due to this erroneous belief, this group of patients has an increased risk to suffer from other health problems related to sleep apnea. Furthermore, they will not be able to enjoy life as much as other healthy senior citizens as sleep apnea results in a poor quality of life, and more so when there is no one being concerned enough to bring these patients to a medical practitioner for a thorough medical test.
In addition to that, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children is proven to go hand-in-hand with sleep apnea, creating an indefinite link between the two conditions. Snoring, mainly due to breathing difficulties, causes a child to sleep poorly and this leads to attention problems the following day. This in hand, forms the relationship between both conditions whereby sleep apnea is believed to be one of the main culprits behind children tossing and turning in bed all night long, or ADHD. Sleep apnea in the form of obstructive sleep apnea greatly affects the health of type 2 diabetes patients as well. During obstructed respiration in sleep apnea patients, the glucose control will be harmfully affected, deteriorating the problems of type 2 diabetes faced by the patient. Worse still, poor glucose control in the body leads to even further health complications in the near future. Besides that, cognitive impairment has time after time been associated with sleep apnea, and this is even more distinctive in older women than in other sex or age groups. As with both the associations above, cognitive impairment is also due to the stymied respiration in patients of sleep apnea. The correlation between cognitive impairment and sleep apnea is a positive one, as the latter gets more severe, cognitive impairment worsens as well.
Lastly, patients with sleep apnea beyond doubt have an augmented risk of being involved in a road accident. However, what strikes fear in researchers the most is undoubtedly the fact that sleep apnea is much likely under diagnosed, meaning that drivers on the road who are absolutely unaware that they are suffering from sleep apnea and thus, increases the number of road accidents all over the world. This is due to daytime sleepiness in patients, which is also due to respiration difficulties faced by patients during sleep. Therefore, the person driving next to you on the road could be suffering from sleep apnea and accidents could happen anytime and anywhere in this case. As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure. Hence, it is always vital to undergo a thorough evaluation to check for any sleep disorders and to cure it as soon as possible. By taking this measure of prevention, less number of cases of road accidents will be reported and fewer lives would be lost unnecessarily.
To sum it up concisely, sleep disorders are basically conditions which have a bearing on a person’s sleep. In this modern society whereby time is regarded as an extremely important asset to one’s life, sleeping is forced to take a backseat in order to give way for personal ambitions and the aspiration to succeed. Thus, sleep disorders start to creep into people’s life, and usually acts like a silent killer to people’s wellbeing as health problems related to sleep disorders occur, causing them to be confused as they are totally oblivious to their own sleep disorder and have an impression that they are perfectly healthy. In sleep apnea, not many people care to worry about it as one of its symptom, which is snoring, is way too commonly seen. As stated before, everyone has the risk of getting sleep apnea, from children to senior citizens of both genders, and like any other conditions or health problems, sleep apnea has its own treatment and therapies. It is only up to every individual to be aware of what sleep apnea is, how it occurs, what are the symptoms related to it, the ways of treating it, and how it affects a person’s wellbeing. Hence, if only sleep apnea is as widely known as other health problems such as cancer or high blood pressure, then it will not be under diagnosed anymore and precisely less people would be caught unaware by this condition. Therefore, we should educate ourselves and everyone around us about sleep apnea and sleep disorders in general. As the saying goes, the greatest wealth is health, and for that reason not even a single health condition should be neglected at all for the best interest of everyone.
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