A sleep disorder can lead to serious health problems

MANILA, Philippines –  While sleep is something that many people can blissfully sink into, others find it extremely difficult to fall into a deep and restful slumber. Makati Medical Center, the country’s leading health institution, lets you in on the different types of sleep disorders and how you can prevent or combat them.

Dr. Katerina Tanya Gosengfiao, chief of the Neurophysiology Sleep Disorders Laboratory at MakatiMed, explains that sleep happens in various stages. “Essentially, there are two types of sleep. Rapid Eye Movement, or REM sleep, is characterized by shifting eye movements. This is when dreaming normally occurs. The second kind is non-REM sleep, which is the deeper type of slumber. This is the period when your body recovers from the day’s activities to keep it from feeling fatigued the next day,” she relates.

A sleep disorder, she adds, can affect a person’s daytime activities; effects can range from more common consequences including irritability, slower reaction times, slurred speech and fatigue, to more serious and life-threatening repercussions such as hypertension, heart disease, and depression.

If you are experiencing any of the sleep disorder symptoms mentioned above, it is important to visit a sleep laboratory to have your condition diagnosed, evaluated, and treated properly. MakatiMed’s Neurophysiology Sleep Disorders Laboratory, for instance, has an “apnea link” device that screens for sleep apnea, a type of sleep disorder.

Insomnia. A short-term or chronic inability to get quality sleep, insomnia can be caused by a variety of factors including stress, poor bedtime habits or a sudden change in sleep schedule. While this is one of the more common sleep disorders, it can also be a symptom of a serious mental ailment, such as clinical depression, generalized anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

Sleep apnea. This sleep disorder, although also common, can likewise be serious and life- threatening. Sleep apnea can be caused by obesity, nasal congestion or blockage, or even a uniquely shaped head or chin. Symptoms to watch out for are frequent gaps while breathing, gasping or choking, loud snoring, and excessive daytime fatigue.

Narcolepsy. A neurological condition that causes extreme sleepiness, narcolepsy can make a person fall asleep in the midst of an activity without warning — even after getting a good night’s rest. While the causes of narcolepsy are mostly genetic, studies are being done on the environmental influences that can trigger it.

Some symptoms of narcolepsy are: intermittent and uncontrollable “sleep attacks” (falling asleep during daytime), excessive daytime sleepiness and cataplexy (sudden, short-lived loss of muscle control during an emotional situation).

Dr. Gosengfiao stresses that the best prevention for sleep disorders is a good sleep hygiene. “Set a good sleeping and wake-up routine that you can consistently follow, even during holidays. Avoid exercising at least two hours before bedtime and excessive daytime napping. If you smoke or drink, avoid doing so right before bedtime. Try to do something relaxing, such as deep breathing or yoga, to get your body ready for rest.”

She adds that the atmosphere also plays a central part in helping one sleep. “Make the bedroom conducive to rest — it should be dark, quiet, and cool. If need be, use earplugs or shades to coax yourself to sleep.”