Why Sleep Problems often get ignored

Sleeplessness has a long and tortured history. A 15th-century Italian lawyer named Hippolytus de Marsiliis is said to have first documented sleep deprivation as a way to punish prisoners. To add to that this, make a note that he is the same man credited with confirming the effectiveness of slow-drip water torture. He was merely making formal what humans had known for centuries; not getting enough sleep is painful.

Mental health concept in playful style with egg characters

 

Today, the problem of too little sleep, and the quest for more of it, is as acute as ever. Over a quarter of the people interviewed in a new consumer survey of adults said they had trouble falling asleep or staying asleep most nights, and two thirds of them struggled with sleep at least once a week. For those in charge of machinery, or who are professional drivers, this lack of sleep can be a serious problem.

Tiredness at the wheel is just one major problem that results from lack of sleep and nodding off at the wheel isn’t just frightening – it can be fatal. Just think – at 55 mph you cover the length of a football field in 5 seconds. In fact, about one-fifth of fatal car crashes involve a drowsy driver, according to a 2014 study in which specially trained investigators analysed all the car crashes from 2009 to 2013.

A good night’s sleep can require everything from the practical, such as a comfortable pillow, to having calm and peace of mind. On top of this, the modern marketplace has exploded with supposed solutions for people who can’t sleep due to them or their partner snoring, but few of them are tested or approved.

For example, Americans spent an estimated $41 billion on sleep aids and remedies in 2015, and that’s expected to grow to $52 billion by 2020, according to an analysis by BCC Research. The main problem is that certain solutions don’t work as well as claimed – and that’s if they work at all.

Make sure they are either NHS or FDA approved and if possible they have evidence of authentic published medical testing. After all your health is what’s at stake so it’s not about buying cheap and saving small amounts of money. The word cheap means exactly what it says, and there are very good reasons for using it.

Millions of us have a sleep disorder such as snoring, sleep apnoea, or chronic insomnia and this can bring persistent difficulty sleeping and subsequent trouble functioning during the day – and that includes both men and women. The vast majority don’t get properly diagnosed or treated, according to research published in the journal Sleep Medicine.

Some people may be unaware of sleep interruptions, perhaps because they live alone, and often patients don’t bring their sleep to the attention of doctors because they don’t think it’s a medical problem or that the doctor won’t be able to help – and that may be exactly right.

Past surveys have shown that medical schools have formally devoted, on average, less than 2 hours overall to sleep medicine, and doctors might not routinely discuss sleep problems during reviews and visits. A study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that only 25% of primary care providers asked new patients about insomnia or other sleep issues, although many had signs of problems. Doctors might also find it hard to pinpoint which of the many sleep disorders is the culprit because symptoms may be unclear, and other illnesses and habits may also affect rest.

However if the problem is snoring or sleep apnoea, then the signs are very obvious, and prevention or control is of either is simple. On its own, snoring isn’t necessarily a serious concern. Almost everyone with sleep apnoea snores, but not everyone who snores has sleep apnoea.

The difference is that vibrations of the soft tissues of the upper airway produce snoring, and sleep apnoea occurs when the airway collapses and air cannot get into the lungs, interrupting sleep 30 to 60 times per hour.

There are lots of statistics to back this up. In the UK while 40% of men and almost 25% of women snore habitually, approximately 9% of men and 5% of women have sleep apnoea – but many more cases are unreported or undiagnosed. In the USA 12% of men and 8% of women are being treated for sleep apnoea. The figures are reported to be even higher in Australia but men still suffer more than women from this far-reaching condition.

Snoring and sleep apnoea are both easily treated with either a simple mouthpiece that brings the lower jaw forward while sleeping, and consequently opens the airway, or if you snore open-mouthed, by using an elasticated Chin Strap that closes the mouth and prevents you from snoring. Sometimes a combination of the two works even better for some people.

There’s a wide choice of medically approved oral appliances available – and as a consequence they don’t need a prescription. They are all good value, and easily affordable, and they can improve your life and health enormously.

John Redfern