Do Sleep Disorders or Problems Actually Trigger Disease?

By | November 21, 2016

There are plenty of things which can make us turn and toss instead of obtaining a good night’s sleep: caffeine, stress, nicotine or even spicy food too close to bedtime. More often than not things that make us wake up bleary-eyed and go through the day yawning can be remedied by change in lifestyle. However, the resolution of certain sleep problems requires more than change in lifestyle, and sleep apnea is one of them.

Sleep apnea is a chronic medical problem that occurs when a person temporarily stops breathing or takes shallow breaths a number of times while they sleep. The breathing pauses might be as short as a few seconds or as long as a couple of minutes. The condition commonly disturbs sleep between three and five times every week with the breathing interruptions usually occurring between 5 and 30 or more times per hour. Consequently, the person usually wakes up feeling tired from the night of continuous deep sleep disruption.

Chronic snoring is the most common sign of obstructive sleep apnea, and daytime sleepiness is easily the most noticeable effect. But sleep apnea places one at higher risk for a range of serious medical issues, including high blood pressure levels, cardiac arrest, stroke, hypertension, obesity, diabetes as well as an increase in irregular heartbeats. Apnea, however, isn’t unique among sleep problems in the tendency to lead to serious medical issues. All sleep issues compromise the body’s immune system and put an individual at greater risk for poor health. When the body receives insufficient sleep, it suffers a loss of flexible immune responses which are critical for fighting off infections and diseases. Too little sleep doesn’t specifically lead to such maladies as cancer or the seasonal flu, but it can boost the likelihood of these along with other maladies by compromising the body’s immune system.

While those who are afflicted by unresolved sleep problems may or may not encounter medical issues stemming from the compromised immune system, they undoubtedly suffer the superficial results of receiving insufficient sleep. Concentration is affected, mood is altered, hunger increases along with a general a feeling of malaise often stand in the way of their achieving a sense of physical and emotional vitality. Additionally, workplace performance and social interaction is usually compromised.

There are a variety of herbal and chemical over the counter sleep aides, but many of them are intended for short-term use or aren’t powerful enough to treat serious sleep problems. Physicians can prescribe more powerful medicine, but even prescription drugs often address the effects of the sleep problem and not its cause when a patient doesn’t receive a thorough evaluation, that ought to ideally contain a psychological, a behavioral along with a physical examination.

Should you suffer insufficient sleep that does not resolve by itself and can’t be attributed to things like excessive caffeine, a change in sleep schedule or temporary stress, the best idea is to contact a clinic that specializes in sleep medicine. Unlike an ordinary doctor’s appointment, a scheduled appointment with a sleep clinic is really a thorough evaluation of psychological, behavioral and physical factors to arrive at the underlying cause of the sleep problem.

If you have a sleep disorder, you may think only of the way the disorder affects your sleep. But sleep apnea, among other sleep issues, is really a disorder that affects more than your sleep. Far from just causing nightly tossing and turning and snoring, sleep apnea can even lead to high blood pressure and heart failure.

While conducting research for this article, I learned about sleeping problems and sleep medicine at