Treatment of Sleeping Disorders

The Problem
There is an epidemic in the United States of health problems related to sleep disorders. A growing body of medical literature maintains that several common medical complaints many people experience throughout the day could be directly related to disorders of sleep. With over sixty percent of the US population struggling with obesity, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is becoming more commonplace. Many people that experience excessive daytime fatigue, loss of energy, or increased generalized anxiety could be suffering from OSA. If a person is overweight they are more at risk for this condition as excessive tissue in the neck or excessive adipose tissue in the chest can prevent the natural respiratory process at night. Often this condition goes unnoticed and the generalized fatigue experienced is thought to be the cause of another etiology. Patients often come to treatment with their spouse who may complain that their partner experiences excessive snoring or wakes up gasping for air throughout the night. All of these can be signs of OSA and indicate that a person should seek medical attention.

The Solution
A physician that suspects a patient has a sleeping disorder such as OSA will often refer a patient to a sleep disorder center where a complex sleep study can be conducted in order to better diagnosis a variety of sleeping disorders. In these centers, patients often stay the night to be fully evaluated by a team of experts that will monitor a variety of vital signs and various respiratory patterns throughout the night. Sleep disorder centers are often overseen by a qualified physician such as a pulmonologist who specializes in sleep related disorders. In the case of OSA there are two types. Central OSA happens when the brain actually shuts off the respiratory drive and prevents the person from initiating a respiration; this can be seen in people that are not obese and could be indicative of a more concerning underlying disorder. There is also peripheral OSA in which excessive tissue such as that seen with obesity prevents the body’s natural respiratory pattern. Both of these conditions can be evaluated and diagnosed in a sleep center by means of a complete sleep study.

Results from sleep disorder centers are sent back to the physician who ordered the initial tests and these results greatly aid in the general diagnostic work up of patients with suspected sleep disorders. The value of sleep is often unappreciated in American society and as a result the country’s health is suffering. A sleep disorder center will play a pivotal role in better optimizing overall health.

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