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Connecting Sleep and Mental Health

Do you have friends or family say that you snore loudly? Stop breathing during sleep? Feel unrested when waking up? Have daytime sleepiness? Morning headaches? Get easily irritated? Suffer from constant fatigue and lack of motivation?

If so, you may suffer from Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). According to John’s Hopkins School of Medicine, OSA is defined as “interrupted breathing for greater than 10 seconds at least 5 times every hour of sleep.” This phenomenon is usually due to blocking of the upper airway from muscle/neck tissue, tongue, or anatomic issues such as receded jaw or large tonsils.

The result is greatly fragmented sleep due to low oxygen levels and “micro wake ups” throughout the night. This can cause an increase in blood pressure, abnormal insulin/glucose metabolism (Diabetes), increased risk of cardiovascular disease and structural changes to the heart.

Although OSA can be seen at any age, it tends to be more prominent in middle and older aged individuals. Both men and women can be affected. The main risk factor is obesity. However alcohol intake and sedative use prior to sleeping can also contribute. According to John’s Hopkins School of Medicine about 90% of people who suffer from OSA don’t even know it!

Maintaining a healthy weight, decreasing alcohol consumption, and avoiding sedatives prior to sleeping are recommended life changes. However if you feel you may suffer from OSA, check in with your primary care doctor for a sleep study. For low risk individuals some tests can be done at home! A CPAP, which gently gives you positive air pressure to keep the airways open is the recommended treatment of choice. However there can be surgical options depending on your anatomy.

The link between good sleep hygiene and mental health is real. Now get some rest!

Neeraj Sathe, DO

Board Certified in Internal Medicine

Board Member - FIshing the Good Fight

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