The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 100 million people around the world have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a condition where breathing pauses during sleep due to a narrowed or partly blocked airway. In the United States, OSA is estimated to affect one in four men and one in nine women.
Several studies indicate that up to 80% of OSA sufferers are undiagnosed. With only 20% of people getting the help they need via continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP)—widely viewed as the gold standard therapy for OSA—it’s probable that the daytime sleepiness experienced by so many is a symptom of a bigger problem. According to the WHO, OSA affects children and adults, and has been associated with increased frequency of accidents and arterial hypertension.
Unfortunately, the undiagnosed legions include many people in the U.S. transportation industry. For example, the driver of a train that derailed late last year in New York City, killing four passengers, reportedly suffered from “severe sleep apnea.” According to the National Transportation Safety Board, William Rockefeller, the engineer at the controls of the Metro-North commuter train that derailed in the Bronx, had the sleep disorder at the time of the accident, and it had not previously been diagnosed.
In a development that could have wide-ranging implications for those who treat sleep disorders and/or sell sleep-related equipment, Reuters and other news outlets confirmed what sufferers already knew, namely that sleep apnea can “cause drowsiness.”
“I was dazed, you know, looking straight ahead, almost like mesmerized,” Rockefeller reportedly told investigators. “I don’t know if anybody’s ever experienced like driving a long period of time in a car and staring at the tail lights in front of them, and you get almost like that hypnotic feeling staring straight ahead.”
The prevalence of obstructive sleep apnea has been extensively studied in recent decades and the WHO estimated that between 1% and 6% of the adult population may have OSA. A Wisconsin cohort study, which looked at 1,069 employed men and women between 30 and 60 years of age, found that 9% of women and 24% of men had an apnea index that warranted action. Especially if you snore, it’s time to visit a sleep doc and see whether you need a sleep test.
Some people can’t sleep, and some people are not sleeping—even when they think they are—such is the confounding nature of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). OSA is a condition where breathing pauses during sleep due to a narrowed or partly blocked airway. It sneaks up on many people who only question their slumber when they are consistently tired during the day.
The fact is that the body has a strict physiological definition of sleeping, and a test known as a polysomnography (sleep test) is the only way to truly know whether you are getting enough sleep—or waking up multiples times (without knowing it!) during a typical hour.
Fortunately, there is a solution, and it’s called continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). This “gold standard” therapy works every time, if you use it. Fortunately, thanks to some creative engineering, CPAP units do not have to be bulky items that don’t fit in a drawer or on a typical nightstand. Companies such as Somnetics International make an incredibly light and compact unit called Transcend.
Brands such as Transcend are fueling a movement to address OSA as a serious health problem that can have serious consequences. Instead of turning to sleeping pills, for example, patients should consult a physician who specializes in sleep. There are no side effects of using CPAP, but pills have plenty.
According to a study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), emergency room visits involving the sleep aid zolpidem nearly doubled between 2005 and 2010, exceeding 42,000 visits in the year 2009-2010. Zolpidem is the active ingredient in many major sleep drugs. In 57% of these overmedication cases, there were additional drugs involved.
“Overall, nearly half (47%) of zolpidem overmedication-related emergency department visits resulted in either a hospital admission or a transfer to another medical facility,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde via press release. “About a quarter of these more serious cases involved admission to a critical or intensive care unit. Sleep aid medications can benefit patients, but they must be carefully used and monitored. Physicians and patients need to discuss the potential adverse reactions associated with any medication, and work together to prevent problems or quickly resolve any that may arise.”
In 1937, audiences laughed hysterically as Walt Disney’s seven dwarves snored mightily in various buzz saw tones. More than three quarters of a century later, it’s obvious that “Doc” should have sent every one of his diminutive companions to the sleep lab (I know, they didn’t exist) for a sleep test. Far from a laughing matter, poor sleep is no longer considered a mere inconvenience. In fact, many physicians are including sleep as a vital leg on the sacred three-legged stool that includes diet and exercise. After all, the average human exercises 15 minutes to an hour per day, but sleep (with any luck) takes up a third of most lives. Mass media outlets are taking note, with influential magazines such as Time running widely circulated articles that boldly proclaim The Power of Sleep. “New research shows a good night’s rest isn’t a luxury,” writes Time reporter Alice Park. “It’s critical for your brain and for your health.” Richard K. Bogan, MD, chief medical officer, Sleep Med Inc, Columbia, SC, agrees that the general awareness of not only obstructive sleep apnea (a condition where breathing pauses during sleep due to a narrowed or partly blocked airway) but all sleep disorders, is certainly increasing. “The world has begun to recognize that sleep is one of the three legs of health, and there’s a lot of awareness from the consumer perspective, but certainly from the clinical perspective,” says Bogan. Bogan has seen awareness blossom, and these days he is more confident than ever about the future of sleep medicine. Ultimately, that future must encompass all of sleep disordered breathing, from obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) to insomnia. Since consistency and compliance are so vital in any continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment, long considered the gold standard for treating OSA, many experts agree that it’s a good idea to buy a light and portable CPAP unit than can be easily used by patients who like to travel.
While there are many well-known sleep maladies, a few fly under the radar. If you’re having trouble getting shut-eye, consider these 5 uncommon disorders. Of course, if you’re uncertain, please consult your physician. From Mini CPAP (manufacturer of the Transcend® CPAP machine), this guest blog will examine a handful of sleep disorders that aren’t well publicized yet still deserve attention.
Some sleep problems have a virtual monopoly on the public’s attention. And for good reason – things like sleep apnea, insomnia and a few others comprise the vast majority of sleep disorders.
However, there are some other conditions that are just as sleep-disruptive as the better-publicized disorders. Here are five shocking sleep disorders that are little-known but still cause big problems from some people:
Exploding Head Syndrome
Well, the name alone probably got your attention! EHS, caused by severe fatigue and stress, impacts a person’s ability to achieve a full night’s sleep. With Exploding Head Syndrome, a loud “sound” causes the person to spring suddenly awake. However, the “noise” actually never occurs. Someone suffering from EHS has parasomnia experiences, which are unintentional behaviors and actions that occur during sensitive sleep transition periods (like REM, or Rapid Eye Movement stages).
Better known as Teeth Grinding, this rare disorder can cause jaw misalignment, chipped teeth, headaches and other problems. Bruxism usually stems from other sleep problems (such as sleep apnea, snoring, nightmares and a few others). Even if the actual teeth grinding doesn’t cause major sleep disturbances, there are the issues of facial pain, bite problems and other factors.
This is a rare type of a hypersomnia sleep disorder. Hypersomnia conditions include extreme fatigue and excessive sleepiness. However, this disorder isn’t fixed by getting extra sleep. Other symptoms include severe mood swings, depression and a general feeling of laziness. K-LS affects teenage males than any other demographic, and researchers continue to study this rare disorder. One thing that’s fairly certain is that K-LS can trigger migraine headaches.
Being a chatterbox can be a good thing – when you’re awake. If you continue to talk after you’ve gone to sleep, problems can develop. Similar to Exploding Head Syndrome, sleep talking (also referred to as Somniloquy) is caused when sleep transitions are disturbed. The disorder can actually helped dream researchers, because those affected by sleep talking can “play out” their dreams verbally. To prevent sleep talking, a mouth guard may be worn.
With this condition, a person’s internal clock is out of line with the natural 24-hour cycle of night and day. As a result, the sleep cycle is pushed back a few hours each day. Exceedingly difficult to treat, free-running syndrome (also known as Non-24 Hour Sleep Wake Syndrome) is sometimes cured by precisely-timed dosages of melatonin and other sleep-inducing medications.
About the author:Sleep Science Resource LLC offers the Transcend® Sleep Apnea Therapy System, a popular and ultra-portable CPAP machine. At less than 16 ounces the device is small enough for effortless travel, yet is clinically proven to excel as an every-night sleep machine. If you’d like to learn more about Mini CPAP and the full line of Transcend CPAP machines, call 800-678-9695 or visit the CPAP Mini website (http://www.minicpap.com).