Sleep Health

The Dangers of Sleep Disorders

The doctor will then perform a physical examination, looking for signs of illnesses that can affect sleep, including Parkinson’s and heart disease. If your doctor feels more information is needed, he or she may refer you to a sleep center for more testing.

You may be asked to undergo an overnight sleep study, and/ tests for naps and daytime sleepiness. A common sleepiness test is the multiple sleep latency test. During this test, the person has an opportunity to nap every two hours during the daytime. If the person falls asleep too quickly it may mean that he or she has too much daytime sleepiness.

Treatments for Sleep Disorder If you are diagnosed with a sleep disorder, your doctor will suggest specific treatments or remedies.

Some possibilities:

Limiting noise and/or light in your sleeping area.

Limiting the time spent in bed while not sleeping.

Using relaxation techniques, which may help reduce tensions that can affect sleep.

Undergoing cognitive therapy can change attitudes people have about insomnia, according to the SeniorHealth experts.

Very often, people who suffer from movement disorders during sleep such as restless legs syndrome or periodic limb movement disorder are successfully treated with the same medications used for Parkinson's disease. People with restless legs syndrome often have low levels of iron in their blood. In such cases doctors often prescribe supplements.

Medications also can be useful early in your treatment. The SeniorHealth experts say that if necessary, you can use them from time to time.

Sleep Apnea

This condition, in which breathing pauses or becomes shallow, isn’t a movement disorder. Nonetheless, it’s a serious issue that needs to be treated. People who are diagnosed with sleep apnea should try to lose weight if possible, but often they may need other treatments as well. Adjusting your body position during the night may help if you experience sleep apnea more often when you lie on your back.

The most effective treatment for sleep apnea is nasal continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP. This device keeps your air passages open by supplying a steady stream of air pressure through your nose while you sleep. To use the CPAP, the patient puts on a small mask that fits around the nose. Air pressure is delivered to the mask from a small, quiet air pump that sits at the bedside.

Dental Devices. If you have a mild case of sleep apnea, sometimes a dental device or appliance can be helpful.

Surgery. If your condition is more severe and you don't tolerate other treatments, your doctor may suggest surgery to increase the airway size in the mouth and throat. One common surgical method removes excess tissue from the back of the throat.

For more information on senior health issues, visit NIH SeniorHealth.


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