The negative consequences of sleep and its disorders

Sleeping 'per se' poses no danger provided there is a proper physical condition. Otherwise problems may occur. We do not know yet why we need to sleep but we do know that sleep is beneficial with restorative effects. Sleep can have negative effects when there are underlying pathologies that can be triggered or aggravated with it. If these conditions are serious enough to be increased during sleep, then sleep can be problematic. As an example, think about those subjects with severe breathing difficulties. During sleep the respiratory control is not as good as during wakefulness, because during sleep we lose the voluntary control of the respiratory system. It is evident that the patient can suffer a serious respiratory impairment while sleeping. If the patient also stops breathing from time to time (apnea) we can imagine the gravity of what this could mean but not to the sleep but to the previous health condition. Something similar happens to patients with cardiovascular diseases which can worsen during sleep. It is relatively common to see people with respiratory or cardiac problems who are brought to the emergency services at night because they have had an impairment of their disease in their sleep. This should not cause alarm in the general population because it is relatively unlikely that a healthy person can have dangerous consequences during sleep. This only occurs in people with severe underlying diseases.
We must suspect a sleep disorder that needs to be evaluated when we feel that it is very easy for us to sleep in those hours in which we supposedly must be awake or when it is difficult to sleep or to continue sleeping in those hours in which we supposedly must be sleeping. Also it is likely that we have a sleep disorder if we perform movements or unusual behaviors when we are sleeping, such as sudden movements in bed, getting up, walking, etc. Should we have the slightest doubt we must consult our doctor. Doing this we firstly achieve that a professional knows our problem and takes responsibility in it and secondly it is likely that the problem can be worked out. The patient suffering from a sleep disorder often requires complex sleep monitoring and also control for different medical specialists in the sleep center who must try to answer all the different complaints. Some sleep disorders are detected based on their effects during the period in which we have to be awake. It is not lazy the person who during the day has difficulty staying awake or feels tired after getting up, it is not normal to have a difficult sleep onset or to have constant sleep interruptions nor it is normal to perform certain movements or behaviors while we are sleeping . All these symptoms should make us decide to consult a doctor. We must think that it is estimated that insomnia affects 20% -30% of the general population.
It can be said that everyone at one time or another in the lifetime  have had, has or will have a transient or permanent sleep disorder. In many cases it is not the patient who is conscious of having a sleep problem but a relative who suffers and takes the initiative to go and see a professional. But there is no need to be alarmend because most of the disorders have little importance. For example, of the many disorders suffered by children few are physically significant. In this case, they often are the cause of a nightmare for the parents who may not be fully awake to perform their daytime activities. 
Although any disorder is very important for the person who suffers it we can say that today the most important sleep disorders are those that generate  excessive daytime sleepiness. They are so important that if patients are not diagnosed and properly treated they can suffer serious consequences affecting both physical and mental and social health. There is no doubt that anyone who has no difficulties to sleep during the day in any activity that requires rest, such as while sitting in a theater or cinema or watching television, needs a proper study to determine if a sleep disorder is present. In a high percentage of cases we are going to find a problem that can be solved. The best known sleep disorder that affects 6% of the population is sleep apnea. Nowadays it can be very well studied and most cases can be treated succesfully with a significant improvement of the patient and the environment.
The disorder that may surprise us the most is called REM sleep behavior disorder. REM sleep is a normal type of sleep which is present in all of us and is usually associated with dreaming. Using complex neural mechanisms,when we enter in such sleep our body is virtually paralyzed because if not,theoretically we could get up and literally "act" our dreams. Due to our physiological paralysis during the normal sleep this can not happen. Certain people have an alteration of the mechanism of REM sleep paralysis and consequently they can "interpret" their dreams. So we are not going to be surprised should we find individuals who say that they need to be tied to the bed in order to avoid getting up whilie dreaming or to avoid hitting or hurting his bedfellow as dreams tend to be of the violent type. It is a disorder that should be thoroughly studied since treatment is usually very grateful.
Although the average needed sleep time is between seven and eight hours not everybody needs the same number of hours to feel well rested. There is not an established pattern but each of us should know the needed number of sleep hours which can be calculated. Although the requirement of sleep varies according to age and althoug in adult life it is established in a more or less fixed number of hours, in the ages and children they vary and are distributed differently compared with young adults.
A very interesting issue is "siesta". There is no doubt that a nap normally carries health benefits and it makes sense within human physiology. We have seen that there is a trend to inactivity emerging 7 or 8 hours after getting up in the morning. Therefore a nap should be seen as a normal phenomenon. Only cases with cardiac or respiratory diseses naps might not be beneficial as we have previouslyseen when discussing the possible negative effects of sleep.

 
14 Feb 2015
 

Sleep apnea syndrome affects at least 6% of the people

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19 Feb 2015
 

Origin of the word 'siesta'

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