The Health Reporter Is In: May 17, 2017

The Health Reporter Is In: May 17, 2017

Questions for our Health Reporter? Ask them here

Q: I’m an older adult and have had a problem sleeping for a long time. I seem to toss and turn most of the night. Is this something a sleep lab can help with?

A: There can be a lot of reasons for sleep problems, and if you’ve been suffering from insomnia for a long time, you really should call your doctor. A doctor would want to discuss your sleep habits and health history and could tell you if you’d benefit from a sleep study or may advise another test or treatment.

Dr. Salman Sheikh, a Christie Clinic pulmonologist and sleep medicine specialist, said most people should generally fall asleep within 30 minutes after going to bed.

He often finds people suffer sleep problems related to worry, anxiety or depression. Sometimes that can be temporary.

“But if your insomnia doesn’t resolve after three months, that’s a problem,’ he said. “Then it’s a disorder.”

One thing to keep in mind is not everyone’s sleep needs are the same, he said. Most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep, but some people do fine with less sleep, even 4-6 hours a night.

As long as lack of sleep isn’t affecting elements of daily life — work, relationships, safe driving, it’s not a problem, Sheikh said.

“Insomnia is only classified if you wake up and feel exhausted and feel unrefreshed and feel you didn’t sleep,” he said.

Some of the issues people overlook that interrupt their ability to get a good night’s sleep, Sheikh said, is remaining mentally stimulated too late in the evening with work, TV and computers.

Going to bed right after screen time will delay your ability to fall asleep by a couple of hours, he said. Sleep experts advise turning devices off at least an hour before bedtime.

Some patients also fail to pay attention to what they eat and drink before bedtime.

Caffeine is a stimulant that can stay in your system for up to eight hours. Alcohol, which initially makes you drowsy, can cause wakefulness later.

Disorders such as sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome are also linked to insomnia. More potential contributors are nasal and sinus allergies, gastrointestinal problems, endocrine problems such as hyperthyroidism, arthritis, asthma, neurological conditions, chronic pain and medications taken for common colds, nasal allergies, high blood pressure, heart disease, thyroid disease, birth control and depression, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

Some sleep changes also come with aging.

For anyone with a persistent sleep problem, Sheikh said, “we can do a lot of things. We can find out why.”

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