DEPARTMENTS: Ask the Experts
Dr. Beth Ma low is an associate professor of Neurology and medical director of the Vanderbilt Sleep Disorders Clinic at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tenn.
A: Dr. Beth Malow advises
You may have obstructive sleep apnea. This is a very common disorder. When people who have it are sleeping deeply, their breathing stops temporarily for a brief period of time (called an apnea), then resumes with a sudden attempt to breathe. The result is that they never get deep, restorative sleep, only fragmented slumber as the snoring returns to its regular pattern. Sleepers may snore, twitch their legs or toss around in bed as they wake up from an apnea. The sleeper may not even remember awakening although his or her concerned spouse will be quite aware of the problem!
Sleep apnea can contribute to other health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and stroke. It can cause drivers to fall asleep at the wheel. People with certain neurological disorders, such as epilepsy, may be more susceptible to having sleep apnea. But it's easy to attribute sleepiness to stress, medical problems or prescription medication.
Obstructive sleep apnea is very treatable. Sometimes, measures like losing weight (if you are overweight) or having your tonsils removed (if they are enlarged) resolve the problem. People with sleep apnea may be fitted with a specially designed mask, called a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) which is worn over the nose and mouth at night and provides pressurized air, which keeps the airway open.
Obstructive sleep apnea can have serious conse-
For more information on sleep disorders, click on www.thebrainmatters.org.