Most of us are aware of “Beauty Sleep” and understand that a good night’s sleep is essential to look our very best. However, according to Dr. Anoop Karippot, Director, Sleep & Snoring Center at AKANE Institute of Allergy, Asthma & Sleep Medicine, sleep is also essential for memory and cognitive functions. Whatever we learn during the day, our brain processes it and stores it in our memory as we sleep almost like a computer that is being backed-up. Research has shown a worsening of disorders like ADHD and Alzheimer’s disease with inadequate sleep. Sleeping less than five hours or more than nine hours are noted to be hazardous for health.

Dr Karippot states that it’s not just the quantity of sleep but the quality of sleep that matters. Most people see poor sleep as ‘insomnia’. In his practice, he sees several common sleep problems that may be misunderstood as ‘having insomnia’. Some of the common sleep disorders that present as poor sleep patterns or insomnia are:

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is an itchy, crawly, painful and uncomfortable sensation in the legs, usually in the evenings and/or at bedtime, which disturbs the initiation and maintenance of sleep.

Periodic Leg Movement Disorder (PLMD) involves multiple kicks, jerks or movements of the legs during sleep that are usually noticed by the bed partner. This affects the sleep quality of both parties.

REM Behavior Disorder or dream-enacting behaviors include talking, yelling, punching, kicking, sitting, jumping from bed, grabbing and such actions that occur when your brain is in REM sleep(dream sleep) but your muscles are acting out your dreams.

Sleep-walking and Sleep-talking occur usually during lighter stages of sleep. With sleep-walking, people are mostly asleep but engage in basic routine behaviors like going to the bathroom or going to the kitchen to eat. This is more common in children but can happen in adults as well. It can be a scary experience.

Night terrors or sleep terrors occur more often in young children and are frightening for the parents. The child is asleep but starts crying, screaming or yelling. They are inconsolable and have no recollection of the event in the morning.

Nightmare Disorder occurs commonly at night. For some people with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or emotional issues, it may be a stressful event at night that prevents sleep due to fear of dreams.

Sleep Apnea commonly manifests as loud snoring, stopping breathing, chocking or gasping during sleep, or feeling tired and sleepy during the day. Snoring, along with excessive daytime sleepiness is a strong indicator of sleep apnea. This is a dangerous disease and needs immediate medical attention.

Sleep Paralysis is a sensation of being unable to move any part of your body, commonly while drifting to sleep or while waking up.

Teeth Grinding, known as ‘Bruxism’ can be annoying to sleep partners but can also cause joint pain in the jaw or damage to the teeth.

 

According to Dr Karippot, if sleep problems persist for a few weeks and disturb the rhythm of life, it is best to seek an evaluation from a Sleep Medicine Specialist. “A stitch in time saves nine” and a simple evaluation may be the road to better health for you and your family. A home sleep study can aid in the diagnosis of Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) but it does not assess other sleep problems that may be the predominant issue. Nothing replaces the good old-fashioned belief of “Seeing the Doctor First!”