Corsicana — Most people spend 25 to 35 percent of their lives asleep, but it’s a void we don’t recall, pointed out Dr. John Updegrove at Wednesday’s Healthy Woman luncheon at La Pradera in Corsicana.
About 5 to 15 percent of the population has sleep disturbances that can range from insomnia, to sleep apnea, to narcolepsy. Pulmonologists, which Updegrove is, are often the specialist consulted because sleep problems often deal with a lack of oxygen.
Sleeping problems are more often found in men than women, although women’s sleeping problems will increase after menopause, Updegrove said.
Narcolepsy, where a person falls asleep spontaneously and against their will, is more rare than we think. The most common problem is simply lack of sleep, Updegrove said.
“Overwhelmingly, the main problem in America is not enough sleep time,” he said.
An average person should get between six and eight hours of sleep a night, and the best way to determine how much an individual needs is to take a vacation, Updegrove explained. After about a week, an individual will start sleeping a natural amount, whatever that is.
Another common problem is sleep apnea, although that is more frequently found in men. Symptoms can be snoring, sudden lack of breathing, leaping awake more than 30 times per night, depression, morning grouchiness, exhaustion, but can lead to more serious health issues.
“They’re just sort of miserable people,” he said.
In sleep apnea, the throat relaxes and collapses, preventing oxygen to the brain and heart, and causing the sleeper to jump awake and gasp for air. This can happen dozens of times per night, and prevents the person from getting into the deeper, more relaxing stages of sleep, Updegrove explained.
“It’s very fragmented sleep, and they never get to those deeper sleep levels,” he said.
One solution is the C-PAP machine, which forces air into the throat, and prevents it from relaxing. It’s a treatment, not a cure, he said.
“People all the time tell me ‘I can’t believe how bad I felt, and I can’t believe how good I feel now,’” Updegrove said. “They say ‘you can take my kids or my dog, but not my machine.’”
Diagnosing sleep problems generally means a night in a sleep center, where the person can be hooked up to sensors to determine oxygen and relaxation levels through the night.
“People have been snoring forever, but diagnosis and treatment is very new,” Updegrove said.
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