Ever wonder why you are fatigued during the day when you thought you slept throughout the night? Why your spouse snores so much? Whether your sleep problems might be related to other health issues? Dr. Aparajitha Verma, neurologist with the Sleep Disorders Center at the Methodist Neurological Institute in Houston, Texas, is here to answer those questions and help you get a good night's rest.
Q: How do I know if I'm having serious sleep problems?
A: If you cannot fall asleep within 30 minutes of lying down, if you have excessive daytime sleepiness, or if you sleep for seven or more hours and still wake up tired, you may have a sleeping disorder. We recommend people with these symptoms undergo an overnight sleep study at a center that is accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, such as our center at Methodist.
Q: My spouse tells me I snore loudly or I sometimes stop breathing during the night. What could be the cause?
A: Snoring can be a symptom of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) which, if left untreated, can be life threatening. If an overnight sleep study results in a diagnosis of a sleep disorder, we follow the philosophy that the patient should be given the option to choose. For example, good candidates for continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment include patients with sleep-disordered breathing - upper airway resistance syndrome, OSA, and central sleep apnea. The C-FLEX with CPAP is a good option for patients who have a hard time exhaling or who complain that "air is getting stuck in my chest or throat."
Q: I sleep all night and still wake up in the morning tired. Sometimes I even fall asleep at work or, worse, while I'm driving. What's wrong?
A: This could be a sign of OSA or narcolepsy, which is a chronic neurological disorder caused by the brain's inability to regulate sleep-wake cycles normally. Some patients with narcolepsy also experience cataplexy, which is a condition featuring loss of muscle function, ranging from slight weakness (such as limpness at the neck or knees, sagging facial muscles, or inability to speak clearly) to complete body collapse.
Q: If I have a sleep disorder, am I at a higher risk of other health issues?
A: People with sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, are at a higher risk for stroke and transient ischemic attacks (TIAs, also known as "mini-strokes"), coronary heart disease, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, heart attack, and high blood pressure. Although there is no cure for sleep apnea, successful treatment can reduce the risk of heart and blood pressure problems.
Q: Is there a relationship between sleep deprivation and weight gain?
A: The risk of gaining weight increases as the number of hours a person sleeps each night decreases. If you sleep less than six hours a night, you are 50 percent more likely to become obese than someone who is sleeping seven to eight hours a night. Two hormones play a role in weight management. Leptin is associated with appetite control and ghrelin has been identified as an appetite stimulant. During sleep deprivation, leptin levels fall and ghrelin levels rise, which leads to an increased appetite.
Q: What are some tips I can follow to help me get a better night's sleep?
A: I tell patients that good "sleep hygiene" is just as important as diet and exercise:
-- Sleep in a quiet and dark environment and set the thermostat at a slightly cooler temperature
-- Don't allow pets in the bed
-- No reading, eating or watching TV in bed
-- Don't watch the clock
-- Set a "wind down" time prior to going to bed
-- Don't take over the counter sleep aids, as these can disrupt sleep stages Instead, try drinking warms teas or milk to increase your body temperature, which helps induce and sustain sleep
-- Exercise is good for sleep, however not within two hours of going to sleep
About the Methodist Neurological Institute
The Methodist Neurological Institute (NI) houses the practice and research activities of the departments of neurology, neurosurgery, neuroradiology, neurophysiology and physical medicine & rehabilitation at The Methodist Hospital. The mission of the NI is to advance the discovery of the origins, mechanisms and treatment of neurological disease and to provide comprehensive care for patients with disorders and injuries of the brain and spinal cord.
Methodist is primarily affiliated with Weill Cornell Medical College and New York Presbyterian Hospital. Methodist is also affiliated with the University of Houston. Methodist is ranked among the country's top centers in 14 specialties in U.S News & World Report's 2007 America's Best Hospitals issue. Methodist is ranked in more specialties than any other hospital in Texas, and is 9th in the nation for neurology and neurosurgery.
Methodist Hospital, Houston
6565 Fannin St.
Houston, Tx 77030
What is Tiredness?For more information on what tiredness is and how to beat it, please see:
What is Tiredness or Fatigue? How Can I Beat Tiredness? Why am I Tired?