Less Common Sleep Disorders and How to Treat Them

less-common-sleep-disorders

Most people are well aware of more common sleep disorders like insomnia, narcolepsy, and sleep apnea and their effects on our health. However, what many may not know is the health hazards that come with some lesser known sleep disorders. All of these conditions do share one thing though, and that is preventing an individual from getting a good night’s sleep. Below are some less common sleep disorders that deserve the attention of medical professionals, and those suffering from them.

Sleep Paralysis

Many people have experienced this terrifying phenomenon that often comes with vivid hallucinations, typically of frightening images or sensations. During REM sleep, the brain essentially “turns off” the muscles so that the individual does not physically act out any dreams he or she may be having. Sleep paralysis occurs when you have awoken from REM sleep before that stage is finished, leaving your muscles paralyzed while your eyes are open, leaving you in a transient conscious state. During this state, many patients have experienced hallucinations of someone or something in the room with them, or feeling pressure on one’s chest. This sense of panic can directly affect your ability to fall back asleep.

Treating this condition depends on the causes. More often than not, sleep paralysis is a hereditary complication, making it all the more difficult to treat. However, it is mostly caused by sleep deprivation and narcolepsy, in which case getting a full night’s sleep on a consistent basis can help lessen or cure sleep paralysis altogether. Work closely with a sleep specialist if you feel that sleep paralysis frequently occurs in your life. Different forms of medication, such as antidepressants, may help.

Night Terrors

Somewhat similar to sleep paralysis in that the individual experiences vivid nightmares, night terrors can lead to a person thinking they are awake, when they are actually asleep. In this state, you may scream and yell in your sleep, violently toss and turn, and sometimes sweat profusely. Though this typically occurs toddlers and young children, adults can experience night terrors as well.

Treatment for night terrors is fairly simple when a child is involved. While it may appear that they are in great distress, allowing children to go through the night terror without interfering is your best option. No physical harm is being done, but waking them suddenly can enhance their fear and potentially affect their sleeping patterns in the future. In adults, night terrors are most often caused by stress and anxiety, which can be treated with behavioral or relaxation therapy. Should an underlying condition be the cause, such as sleep apnea, treating that condition first should aid in curing the respective night terrors.

Exploding Head Syndrome

The name of this condition alone may startle a few people, but there is no pain associated with exploding head syndrome. This sleep disorder involves hearing a loud sound comparable to an explosion or gunshot right before the individual is about to fall asleep. As jarring as it may be, there is no physical harm done. However, exploding head syndrome can lead to a development of fear in patients, forcing them to stay awake for longer in an attempt to avoid experiencing it.

 
Seeing as this is another condition often caused by stress or depression, certain forms of medication may help, such as antidepressants or calcium channel blockers. More natural remedies include improving sleeping habits and meditation. Sleeping 7-8 hours a night consistently with little disturbance can prevent experiencing this phenomenon, much like the aforementioned conditions.

Sleep Disorders in the Military

Those fighting for our country battle not only enemies, but countless amounts of medical and mental issues. In the military, sleep is not as great a luxury as it is for those not serving due to certain missions spanning for days at a time. A lack of sleep in soldiers has taken interest in experts interested in sleep disorders, and the results speak for themselves.

Getting a proper night’s sleep seems to be the cure to many life dilemmas, however those serving most likely do not have control over their sleep schedule. Army Col. Dr. Vincent Mysliwiec conducted a study which concluded a great deal of sleep disorders among active military. As obvious as it may seem, the lack of a complete sleep cycle highly increases the probability of injuries, errors, and accidents. David Vergun blogged on Real Clear Defence about Dr. Mysliwiec’s findings and how he discovered most soldiers sleep less than 6 hours, when the average adult should at least be getting 7-8 hours. This unstable sleep cycle can inevitably ruin a person’s biological clock, likely leading to a sleep disorder.

The same study found that 85% of test subjects had a “clinically relevant sleep disorder.” The American Academy of Sleep Medicine also took a look into Mysliwiec’s study and elaborated that due to the conclusion of the study, a change in military culture regarding sleep should be considered. Often times, soldiers engage in one-hour rotations when they are on a “watch” duty type mission. This pattern is often more damaging to a sleep cycle than staying up for a full day. Interrupted sleep has a greater impact on a foundation for developing a sleep disorder than long periods without sleep cause. Allowing significant time to catch up on sleep following a lengthy mission is highly encouraged by doctors, as a rested mind is less likely to create harmful scenarios for the military personnel.

An even more appealing case advocating for those serving and needing more sleep is the repercussions of having a sleep disorder. Those with insomnia during their time serving are more likely to suffer from PTSD than those not incurring a sleep disorder. After returning home from a tour, many claim that the inability to sleep is due to constantly being on high alert during their deployment. The ability to break the habit of constantly being vigilant is the most difficult part of returning home, according to an article on Task & Purpose. A huge concern is the lack of resources that exist to help those suffering. Medication is always available, but unless veteran status is achieved, those returning to combat are not likely to take up a medicinal solution.

Being a part of the military presents scenarios and challenges that everyday citizens will likely never face. Many times, sleep is low on a list of priorities during an intense mission or task, however the recovery afterwards is vital in order for soldiers to regiment a healthy sleep cycle.

A Dentist’s Role in Improving Sleep

R. Kirk Huntsman

A surprising outlet one who is experiencing difficulty sleeping may have is his or her dentist. While it may seem like a waste of time bringing up sleep issues with a medical professional primarily focused on oral health, dentists have an impressive amount of insight on the connection between your teeth and how well you may be sleeping at night.

Like all medical professionals, a patient’s overall health is the main concern for dentists. With the many connections between oral health and how it affects all areas of the body, those in the dental industry have been trained to identify telltale signs of sleeping issues. For example, the alignment of one’s jaw and decaying enamel may display the habit of grinding teeth while sleeping, or having obstructive sleep apnea altogether.

If your dentist were to suspect that you suffer from a sleep disorder of any kind, you will typically receive a brief interview as they attempt to assess your personal situation, asking about your daily habits, if you happen to feel drowsy during any of those, or if you generally have trouble sleeping at night.

A large number of dentists have been trained to properly treat sleep apnea, and typically offer mandibular advancement devices depending on the nature of one’s case. Tongue retaining devices work best for those who experience excessive snoring, as the tongue is held in a forward position, preventing any blocking of the airway. Continuous positive airway pressure therapy, or CPAP, helps provide airflow throughout the night for anyone struggling with sleep apnea, and frequent stoppages in breathing.

If your dentist suspects that you may be experiencing a sleep disorder that may have gone unnoticed, they may be able to provide alternative methods of treatment, or general tips to help you treat the condition yourself. This is not to say that if you are experiencing difficulty sleeping, you should consult your dentist first. Though they may be knowledgeable on the subject, it is not their primary area of focus. You will be (and should be) referred to a sleep physician to properly treat these sleeping complications.

 
However, they can help. If your case is not an emergency, bring the subject up during your next dentist appointment, and he or she may be able to share their knowledge, and help you better control your sleeping patterns.

How to Treat Sleepwalking

Sleepwalking’s mystique has never failed to captivate and confuse medical science. Over centuries, we’ve evolved complex monitoring machines and strapped in sleepwalkers, mapping brain waves in pursuit of any explanation, however science still falls silent as to why some of us rise zombie-like from slumber to shamble through the night.

While we may never truly know why people sleepwalk, doctors have had some success in diagnosing and treating the condition. We’ve learned that sleepwalking often occurs during the shift from deep to light sleep stages, and we know that out of anyone, children ages four to eight are most likely to sleepwalk. Glazed, dimly staring eyes, sluggish movements, and even slower responses likely indicate a sleepwalking episode, and sleep-eating is a common symptom among walkers.

Science has also found that chronic sleepwalking seems to correlate with several lifestyle factors and pre-existing medical conditions. Such indicators don’t amount to definitive causes, but are nonetheless useful in measuring the likelihood of repeated bouts.

Behavioral variables which may increase chances of sleepwalking include:

  • Not getting enough sleep (sleeping at least 7 hours per night is recommended for adults)
  • Inconsistent sleep scheduling
  • Excessive stress
  • Consuming alcohol
  • Using drugs such as sleep-aids, stimulants, medication for psychosis treatment, or allergy relievers

Possible medical issues related to sleepwalking are as follows:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Fever
  • Heartburn
  • Nighttime asthma
  • Nighttime seizures
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Psychiatric disorders

If a patient’s sleepwalking episodes are spurred by the previous factors, simply treating underlying medical conditions, or limiting harmful behaviors should stop any further sleepwalking. While no prevention method is absolute, limiting bodily stress through adequate sleep, meditation or other relaxing activities will likely help stave off future bouts.

 
Those who sleepwalk despite taking preventative action can still avoid potential harm by keeping their sleeping environment safe. Sleepwalkers should lock bedroom doors and windows, and stow sharp, harmful objects from easy reach. If all else fails, installing a bell, alarm, or other waking device to a bedroom door can stop people from sleepwalking beyond their bedrooms.

The Future of the Dental Industry

The dental industry as a whole is an ever changing commerce that fluctuates with the ebb and flow of the economy, changing its method of delivery of services at a fairly frequent rate. For stakeholders and providers of dentistry to maintain relevancy, they must embrace the future, and all the changes that come with it.

One of the major positives to note in dental hygiene is the fact that more and more people are acknowledging the relationship between oral health and total health overall. Individuals are beginning to take better care of their teeth and gums now that more knowledge on the subject has been brought to light. With that said, a shift in the demographic has taken place. Older members of society are beginning to maintain healthy sets of teeth for longer periods of time, forcing developers of implants, dentures, and other oral substitutes to adjust their methods and improve the products’ lasting abilities.

A rather grim statistic the world of dentistry is facing is the dwindling number of students entering the field. Enrollment in dental schools has been declining within the last few decades, leading to a larger number of retiring dentists with fewer professionals to fill their spots. Because of this, the number of businesses seeking to hire dentists is shrinking as well. This proves extraordinarily difficult for those who reside in states that require hygienists to employed by licensed dentists.

These changes bring into question the traditional model of a team of hygienists led by a single dentist. While it is unlikely that this model will change entirely, innovation is bound surface in this area. For example, the areas in which dentists and their teams may practice is almost guaranteed to change within the coming years. Rather than working out of one office, these dental professionals may visit retirement communities, schools, health clinics, or even offer in-home visitations.

Due to constantly changing times, many hygienists are becoming entrepreneurs, in that they are designing their own ways to deliver the care needed by patients, and focusing on the “how” and “where.” One of the ongoing debates is improved portability that includes every tool necessary in a dentist’s or hygienist’s handbag. The more easily a dental professional is able to travel with his or her equipment, the further they can go, both literally and figuratively.

Customer service in the field of dentistry is perhaps as important if not more than the services provided themselves. Patients should be comfortable, and receive the best care possible by all dental professionals. A common cause for concern among patients is the pain that comes with certain procedures. A step in the right direction in terms of innovation would be developing tools, and processes that make one’s experience in a dentist’s office much more enjoyable and pain-free; something that is easier said than done with what little we know about anesthesia, for example.

 
Many dental professionals are constantly working at a diligent pace to improve their practices and standards and adapt with the changes that the future brings. As they do so, the challenges brought forth create an entirely new set of goals for all dentists and hygienists to strive for, possibly further improving the industry at a faster rate.

3D Printing in Dentistry

R. Kirk Huntsman 3D printing

Using additive processes, 3D printing allows for the creation of virtually any object in the modern world. In the dental industry, this has given dental professionals the opportunity to offer patients innovative designs that may improve several aspects of treatment.

Through the combination of oral scanning, computer-aided design and manufacturing, and 3D printing, dental labs can create extremely accurate representations of crowns, bridges, and even orthodontic supplies in large numbers. The speed at which these products are created is greatly increased through this strategy as well.

3D printers have the ability to use any number of materials when modeling objects; another technological aspect beneficial for those in the dental technology field. For implants, titanium can be utilized to fit the proportions of any patient’s needs. This the most frequently used metal in dentistry, and medicine in general, due to its strength-to-weight ratio and biocompatibility. However, in regards to dentures, bridges, and caps, titanium’s biocompatibility is less important due to the fact that these products do not come in contact with the tooth’s soft tissue.

Surgically tools constructed through 3D printing are tested vigorously in order to meet medical-grade standards for treatment and surgery. Because of the need to constantly sterilize these products, stainless steel if the most commonly chosen material in the designing phase. The fact that these printers have the ability to create tools can also bring about improved functionality, or even new instruments that have yet to be developed.

 
Overall, the introduction of 3D printing in the dental industry has provided innovations that may replace traditional processes of molding and creating dental impressions, as well as potentially changing the way professionals approach certain procedures. The higher level of production that 3D printing brings forth also makes the method much more affordable. As methods progress, dental professionals will test different materials that can be harnessed by 3D printers to enhance their products used, and possibly discover more effective tools and strategies along the way.

How Sleep Deprivation Affects Your Work Life

Choosing to go to bed very late at night or skipping a night’s worth of sleep entirely is, unsurprisingly, an unhealthy habit, and doing so during your work week can have a variety of negative effects. This can lead to decreased levels of productivity, forgetfulness, and general fatigue when entering your place of work the next morning, directly resulting in poor performance.

It’s no secret that getting anywhere from 7 to 9 hours of sleep is vital for a productive day following. Not getting this much sleep can cause both short-term and long-term health problems, including a direct affect how efficiently you perform your job.

A common misconception today is that staying later at work displays determination and professionalism to one’s managers, and successfully completes more work than one would in a normal day. However, this habit tends to backfire frequently. Rather than seeing improved performance, a longer night in the office yields opposite results, due to lack of sleep building up over time.

Sleep deprivation is commonly seen as a necessary price that we have to pay in order to be successful in today’s world. This has led to a generation of late night crammers and early morning idleness. Choosing work over sleep will have the opposite results that you wish to see, and studies have shown that after being awake for more than 17 hours, your motor skills are equivalent to someone with a blood alcohol content of .05%.

Sleep deprivation can hinder your creativity and decision-making abilities, and staying mentally sharp is essentially a job requirement. With a full night’s sleep, your cognitive abilities are basically recharged from the day before, allowing you to spark more creative thought, and make smarter decisions throughout the day.

Another negative aspect that sleep deprivation has on one’s work life, which typically goes disregarded, is the number of sick days you will eventually rack up. Lack of sleep has a direct affect on our physical health. As your immune system weakens, you are more prone to colds and the flu, in addition to increasing your risk of blood pressure irregularities, and weight gain. Taking more time off can be a financial burden for your employer.

Your ability to retain information is another mental aspect that takes a hit from sleep deprivation. Attempting to process information from meetings, emails, or phone calls is made much more difficult after a poor night’s sleep. Rapid eye movement during sleep helps your brain solidify memories, and not getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep can cause brain cell damage. This can eventually develop into a long-term health issue as well.

Lack of sleep can negatively affect your mood as well, making your daily interactions with coworkers or customers fairly unpleasant. This can hurt business in more ways than one. Sleep deprivation can cause irritability, stress, and short temperedness, which makes one’s day much more difficult for themselves, and their peers.

 
For a productive, successful work day, a proper night’s sleep is extremely important. Burning the midnight oil, though seemingly effective, can have adverse effects on the quality of your work, and your physical and mental health as well. While it may be required at times, avoid staying too late when possible. A decent amount of sleep is much more important for you, and your employer.

The Best Products for a Good Night’s Sleep

It’s no secret that getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night is key for one’s physical health. As discussed in a previous blog of mine, insomnia and lack of sleep in general can even lead to mental health problems. Yet still, more than 1/3rd of all American adults are not averaging a full night’s sleep. For those who have tried everything they can to combat these harmful habits, consider a few alternatives. Below are a few devices that just may benefit your sleeping patterns.

Sound Soothers

On average, a noise above 55 dBA can wake any sleeping person, and the more inconsistent the noise, the more distracting. Sound soothers are statistically proven to promote sleep by drowning out otherwise bothersome noises with a consistent, alleviating tone of your choice. This can be white noise, rainfall, fireside crackling, or even the soft humming of a city street.

Lark

Lark is an app with a wristband included that wakes sleepers with a gentle vibration after tracking your movements throughout the night. In the morning, you are given a full report of of your night including the quality of your sleep, how long it took you to fall asleep, and the number of times you woke up. Perhaps even better, Lark comes with a feature that allows you to set and maintain a consistent bedtime with reminders and alarms.

Light Adjusters

There are a variety of gadgets that harness the power of relaxing light to aid in a better night’s sleep. One of which is the Aura Connected Alarm Clock from Withings. This ingenious product records the environment in which you are sleeping, and adjusts its light according to noise, temperature, and light levels, attempting to mimic your body’s circadian rhythms with soothing frequencies. By utilizing sensors underneath your mattress, it can also measure body movement, heart rate, and breathing cycles.

Another great product is the Philips Wake-Up Light, which gently wakes you with a light mimicking the rising sun, along with songs or sounds from your own playlist. Should you have trouble falling asleep, this device also has a dusk setting, helping you fall asleep much like the Aura as mentioned above.

 
A poor night’s sleep can lead to a wide range of health problems and should be treated seriously. If your inability to sleep is more mild than others, and medications is not required, consider some of the products mentioned above. They just might be the answer to your sleeping problems after all.

Linking Insomnia with Mental Health

Sleep deprivation can have surprisingly serious effects to both our physical and mental health. In addition to fatigue, lack of sleep can cause increased levels of anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and even ADHD.

The relationship between insomnia and mental illness is a two-way street. Roughly 50% of adults who suffer from insomnia experience mental health issues, while 65% to 90% of adults who have depression experience some sort of sleep disorder. This can create a vicious cycle in that the inability to sleep can slow the recovery process of mental illnesses, while also increasing the chances of relapse.

While it is unclear how insomnia boosts the development of mental illness in those suffering from it, research suggests that it may hinder the ability to process negative emotions. A study at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine found that sleep-deprived patients who were shown unpleasant images reacted with much more emotion than those who were not sleep-deprived. Additionally, neuroimaging conducted showed that patients with insomnia had higher activity in the brain’s emotional processing area, suggesting that sleep deprivation can make it difficult to properly react to negativity.

Applying the proper treatment of mental illness to sleep disorders can provide some amount of improvement, but insomnia usually requires a specific type of treatment. While cognitive behavior therapy does effectively combat the symptoms of mental health issues, it has been shown that for patients suffering from both insomnia and some sort of mental illness, said mental illness was improved, though the insomnia remained.

Conversely, studies are being conducted to test whether or not treating insomnia can directly affect mental health outcomes. Previous evidence has been found linking sleep disorder medication with improved mental health, though no one form of treatment has been proven to guarantee success.

The good news about this ability to cross-study both mental illnesses and sleep disorders is that doctors are often able to treat both issues at once. Though there is a wide range of circumstances, some forms of treatment may provide relief for several symptoms. Antidepressants are often used to treat insomnia, as the sedatives can cause drowsiness in most patients.

 
The latest findings in research and studies of sleep disorders have added to the growing body of knowledge that these can cause impairments in the brain, contributing to emotional difficulties and some psychological conditions. Many people can attest to the fact that being tired can cause feelings of anger, short-temperedness, impatience, and mood swings. As research continues, professionals hope to uncover exactly why this is, and provide proper treatment with much higher levels of success.

How Oral Health Can Affect Your Sleep

Many people do not realize to what extent oral health affects the rest of the body. One such connection that people might be unaware of is the connection between dental health and a full night’s sleep, generally described as eight hours, though six or seven is also beneficial. If you have poor oral health, it can keep you awake at night, which in turn negatively affects your oral health. The main oral effect of lack of sleep is an increased risk of gum disease. It’s a circle that keeps going round and round unless you stay on top of your dental health and adopt regular sleeping habits.

Sleep, Stress, and Oral Health

While oral health could cause a lack of sleep, it’s also possible that another problem altogether is affecting your sleeping habits and dental health. If you’re experiencing a significant amount of stress, this anxiety will come through during your sleep. You may grind your teeth, be unable to fall into a deep sleep, or continuously clench your jaw. You might develop canker sores, which can be incredibly painful and make it impossible for you to concentrate throughout the rest of your day.

If you begin developing a habit of going to bed at a regular time and getting a full night’s rest, it’ll be more likely that you’ll experience less stress. Learn how to manage your stress and you’ll soon find that you get a more restful night of sleep, which benefits you because you feel well-rested and are being proactive about your dental health.

Obstructive Sleep Disorders

Obstructive sleep disorders are caused when your throat muscles relax unintentionally and your breathing becomes cut off for a short period of time. Sleep apnea may be the most common of these disorders and can lead to significant health problems if it is not treated properly. Some of these problems include: diabetes, obesity, gum or heart disease, and various others.

Luckily, either you or your partner will notice your pauses in breathing at night, so you’ll know when it’s time to see a doctor about your sleep apnea. There are various devices you can get to help with your symptoms and other lifestyle alterations you can make, like exercising more, that may help with your sleep apnea symptoms.