In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

November 29, 2018

Sleep Specialist Helps ID Clear Signs of Sleep Trouble

By In the Loop

Most of us don't get as much sleep as we should. But how do you know when a lack of sleep becomes a problem that needs medical intervention?

Sleep. It's perhaps the biggest, and most important, contributing factor to a healthy body and mind. Yet for many of us, it's one thing we get too little of night after night. But how do you know what's standing in the way of good, solid sleep? Is it stress from your job, household, kids? Is it your pet? Or is it a bad mattress, faulty pillow or noisy/fidgety partner? And how do you know if and when it's time for medical intervention?

That, it turns out, is the exact question Reader's Digest attempts to answer in "7 Clear Signs You Might Need Sleep Meds." Sleep specialists from around the country weigh in, including Mayo Clinic's Michael Silber, M.B., Ch.B., on when it's time to ask for help.

The piece works through signs like "You're sleeping through the night, but you don't wake up rested," and "You're getting enough Zzs at night, but still hankering for naps." (Hmm, check.)

Dr. Silber weighs in on "You snore like a chain saw." He says that may point to obstructive sleep apnea, a condition in which throat muscles intermittently relax and block the airway during sleep. "In some people who snore, that obstruction gets severe enough that the throat shuts altogether," Dr. Silber says. "When that happens, not enough air can get into the lungs effectively and the brain responds by waking people up."

If your doctor diagnoses you with sleep apnea, don't worry. Dr. Silber and others at Mayo Clinic's Center for Sleep Medicine have a plethora of treatments and therapies at their disposal to help you start breathing free and clear again while you sleep.

If, while lying in bed (or anywhere else), you feel a consistent urge to move your legs, Dr. Silber and others say you might be suffering from sign No. 6: Restless legs syndrome. And when interventions like changing lifestyle behaviors, upping daily exercise, and increasing our daily intake of iron aren't doing the trick, Dr. Silber says it's time to bring in the professionals. "Once it reaches a point where those measures don't work and the iron levels are normal or corrected, there are medications available to help," he tells Readers Digest.

Just as there are if and when "You start acting out your dreams," which is another sign of sleep trouble, and occurs when normally paralyzed muscles become un-paralyzed during REM sleep cycles. "People with REM sleep behavior disorder lose their paralysis and can, in fact, act out their dreams," Dr. Silber tells Harris. "So they punch, they flail their arms, they kick, they scream, they shout." And of course, they don't sleep well.

If any of this sounds like you (or someone you know), give these Mayo Clinic-approved sleep tips and tricks a whirl. If that doesn't work, then — as Reader's Digest suggests — it might be time to talk with your health care provider.

Until then, come and talk to us by leaving a comment below before using the social media tools atop this page to share this story with others.



Tags: Center for Sleep Medicine, Dr. Michael Silber, Health and Wellness, Obstructive Sleep Apnea, Practice story, REM sleep behavior disorder, Restless Legs Syndrome

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