Salt Lake City, UT -- (ReleaseWire) -- 03/21/2021 --On the surface, it seems like the doctors' recommendation to get enough sleep would be the easiest part of maintaining good health. But as many know, actually getting to sleep and experiencing quality rest can make nighttime a stressful part of the day.
Leading out as the most commonly diagnosed condition in sleep clinics, obstructive sleep apnea affects roughly 30 to 40 percent of the adult population. That number is up from the reported 4 to 8 percent 22 years ago, an increase that Dr. Kirk Watkins, sleep medicine physician with Intermountain Healthcare, says has mirrored the change in obesity rates for the country.
"I don't think the obesity increase is the reason for the increase in the prevalence data, but I think it's interesting that obesity parallels the sleep apnea increase," Dr. Watkins says. "As the population gets heavier they're more likely to have symptoms of underlying obstructive sleep apnea and come to clinical attention."
In other words, sleep apnea is not necessarily caused by obesity, but obesity can exacerbate the symptoms.
"In most people sleep apnea is caused by anatomy, not obesity," Dr. Watkins says.
Either way, the most common refrain heard in Dr. Watkins office is some form of the complaint, "I'm tired of feeling tired" or, "My spouse's snoring is making it difficult for me to sleep."
Not only does sleep apnea leave the person feeling tired in the morning, it has been associated with a long list of issues including morning headaches, daytime fatigue and increased risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, atrial fibrillation, glaucoma, type 2 diabetes and erectile dysfunction in men.
Fortunately for those suffering from obstructive sleep apnea, there is an answer — as long as they're willing to wear it.
"The CPAP is the gold standard," Dr. Watkins says. "If you can keep the mask on your face, it is astonishingly close to 100 percent effective."
CPAP, which stands for continuous positive airway pressure, provides a prescribed amount of air pressure in order to keep airways open and allow the patient to breathe normally.
One of the main complaints people have about the CPAP is that it's not very comfortable, but Dr. Watkins says for those who can get used to it, it provides great relief.
Oral appliance therapies are available to treat sleep apnea and can be very effective for the right patients. According to Dr. Watkins, the optimal patients for oral appliance therapy are younger than 50, not obese, who have mild sleep apnea.
"The published success rate for those patients is only 70 percent. And as the patient gets older, the oral appliance therapy is less likely to work," Dr. Watkins says. "I'm not opposed to it. I've seen it work for select patients. But there's a reason it's a second line treatment."
The best way to address sleep issues, such as obstructive sleep apnea, is to participate in a sleep study that can be done at home or in a sleep center.
Other sleep issues
Beyond the issue of obstructive sleep apnea, Dr. Watkins says poor sleep can be a symptom and a cause of a wide range of other issues, including depression and anxiety.
The key to getting more quality sleep is addressing sleep hygiene, such as keeping the bedroom dark and quiet, not using the bed for anything other than sleep or sex. He suggests developing a regular bedtime routine that includes some relaxation and meditation, a hot bath or massage.
One thing that should not be included in the bedtime routine: any kind of screens.
"It is an absolutely ridiculous, pathetic habit that many people have gotten into that will destroy their sleep," Dr. Watkins says of people using a computer, tablet, phone or television within two hours prior to sleep. "The use of technology in bed is about the stupidest thing you can do to your sleep quality."
However, experience has taught Dr. Watkins that few people are willing to listen to warnings about nighttime screen use.
"It takes a long time to undo years of bad habits with regard to light exposure at night," Dr. Watkins says. "Change may be hard, but avoiding screen use in the bed can improve sleep."
For more information to find the nearest Intermountain Sleep Center or learn more about services, see https://intermountainhealthcare.org/services/sleep-medicine. Further tips for a good night's sleep can be found by clicking here.
About Intermountain Healthcare
Intermountain Healthcare is a not-for-profit system of 24 hospitals, 215 clinics, a Medical Group with 2,500 employed physicians and advanced practice clinicians, a health insurance company called SelectHealth, and other health services in Idaho, Utah, and Nevada. Intermountain is widely recognized as a leader in transforming healthcare by using evidence-based best practices to consistently deliver high-quality outcomes and sustainable costs. For more information, see Intermountain Healthcare or the Intermountain Healthcare Blog.