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The Dangers of Disordered Sleeping

(11/20) If you constantly feel tired and sluggish, it may not be just the pace of modern life thatís wearing you down. We all have daily stresses, from remembering to turn in a project at work to remembering to walk our dog twice a day. But if youíre also dealing with disordered sleeping, youíre fighting with one arm tied behind your back.

Sleep apnea

You may have heard about sleep apnea. Itís when your breathing is constantly interrupted at night. Think of breathing while you sleep like a car moving through traffic. Itís much better if the car moves pretty much constantly rather than stopping, then starting, then stopping again, then starting again. Stop-and-go breathing can be even worse than stop-and-go traffic, because your body isnít getting enough oxygen if you stop breathing dozens or even hundreds of times a night. And yes, there are people who really stop breathing hundreds of times. If youíre an overweight male who is over 40 years old, youíre in three big risk categories right there. They arenít the only risks, though. Even having a large neck (yes, thatís a thing) can be a factor, as can sinus problems or allergies.

People often get tested for sleep apnea because their partners hear them snoring and snorting as they sleep. It can be especially concerning to hear someone make a choking noise as they start breathing again. You may even wake yourself up that way sometimes, which doesnít feel good. If untreated, sleep apnea can lead to things like diabetes and depression, as well as heart failure and stroke. Itís not something to mess around with.

Talk to your doctor about getting tested for sleep apnea and other disorders. Youíll need to see a sleep specialist and get a sleep study done. Those can be done at home or in a doctorís office. There are treatments available for sleep apnea, so donít think youíre just going to have to suffer the rest of your life. Thatís unfair to both you and the partner who has to share a bed with you every night.

Other disorders

Youíll probably hear the most about sleep apnea, partly because itís so dangerous. Itís also pretty common. However, one thing thatís even more common is restless leg syndrome. Restless leg syndrome wonít make you stop breathing, but it can be pretty darn annoying. The syndrome is pretty much just what it sounds like: You have a really persistent urge to move your legs around a lot, especially in the evening and nighttime. Not surprisingly, getting up out of bed and walking around can help, but thereís no real cure, which is bad news for people who are sick of going on walks around the neighborhood at 2 a.m. (even though your dog is probably a fan). You can do things like quitting caffeine or getting more exercise to try and reduce symptoms, though. Itís definitely something worth talking to a doctor about as well.

Other sleep disorders include narcolepsy and night terrors. Narcolepsy causes you to fall asleep at random times and places, like underneath your desk in the middle of your work day. Night terrors are unpleasant for everyone in the house, as you do things like scream about murder in the middle of the night. You seem awake, but youíre not really.

If youíre worried about the cost of receiving treatment for sleep disorders, your insurance can probably help. If youíre on Medicare, itís a good time to look into supplemental Medicare plans that can cover additional expenses. Sleep is so critical to our well-being. If youíre not getting enough of it, or if the sleep youíre getting is low quality, youíre going to feel it eventually.