SLEEP DISORDERS

Most adults need at least 8 hours of sleep every night. If you don't get enough sleep over a long period of time, health problems may ensue.

Sleep disorders are estimated to affect more than half of the U.S. adult population. Problems with sleep can take many different forms: difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, or having appropriate rest during sleep. Besides insomnia which causes difficulty getting to sleep, sleep problems can occur as a result of snoring, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), or upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS).

Snoring

Snoring is noisy breathing during sleep. It is caused by a vibration in the throat due to an obstruction to the flow of air from the nose or mouth to the lungs. Snoring is often linked to obseity, excessive smoking and alcohol, and sleeping on your back.

Sometimes snoring can be minimized with simple treatment such as over-the-counter nasal strips that help prevent snoring.

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Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

Snoring loud and often, together with too much daytime sleepiness, may be signs of sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a disorder in which a person stops breathing during the night, perhaps hundreds of times, usually for periods of 10 seconds or longer and sometimes for as long as a minute. These gaps in breathing are called apneas . The word apnea means absence of breath.

Sleep apnea is a very common sleep disorder. It is also very dangerous. The most common type of sleep apnea happens when your breathing stops during sleep. It can stop for about 10 seconds to as long as a minute. You wake up trying to breathe. This stop-and-start cycle of waking to breathe can repeat hundreds of times a night. The danger is that some time you may not wake up to breathe. If this happens, you can die.

Though you may not be aware that you suffer from sleep apnea, signs and symptoms include feeling sleepy during the day, having trouble paying attention, slowed thinking and feeling irritable.

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Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS)

Upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS) is a condition in which patients snore, wake frequently during the night, and have excessive daytime sleepiness. However, UARS patients do not have the breathing abnormalities that characterize sleep apnea and they do not show a reduction in blood oxygen levels.

Unlike apnea, UARS is more likely to occur in women than in men.

Treatments are similar to those of sleep apnea. It is not known if UARS has any serious health complications.

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