Get Some Sleep: Memory loss, personality change not always dementia
March 22nd, 2011
10:02 AM ET

Get Some Sleep: Memory loss, personality change not always dementia

Lisa Shives, M.D., is the founder of Northshore Sleep Medicine in Evanston, Illinois. She blogs on Tuesdays on The Chart. Read more from her at Dr. Lisa Shives’ Sleep Better Blog.

Charlie did not really want to come to the sleep doctor.  “I sleep just fine,” he told me gruffly at our first consultation.  Many studies show that approximately 50 percent of people over the age of 65 have complaints about their sleep, but this 75-year-old man declared that he was not one of them.  However, his internal medicine doctor and his daughter had insisted that he have his sleep looked into.  They felt that his memory had deteriorated over the past year and they wondered if he could have a sleep disorder that was robbing him of quality sleep and making him confused and forgetful in the daytime.

He has always been a loud snorer, she reported, and, for years, his internist had wanted him evaluated for sleep apnea, but he refused to go for the sleep study.  Now he was sleeping more and more in the daytime.  And when he was awake he seemed “in a daze.”   He was a widower who lived alone and he had stopped going out much because, as he did admit to me, he had “no energy.”

He was going to see a neurologist who specialized in dementia, but his daughter was a nurse and knew very well that sleep disorders can result in significant cognitive impairment especially in older patients.  “He just seems to be going downhill; he is either depressed, demented or chronically sleep deprived, or maybe it is a combination.”

Indeed, such problems with mood and memory are often multi-factorial in elderly patients.  In Charlie’s case, not only was he depressed and in the early stages of presumed Alzheimer’s disease, he also had multiple sleep problems that were only discovered after testing and getting to know him better.

He did have very severe sleep apnea and surprisingly he did not resist the CPAP treatment and he acclimated very well to it.  He seemed a bit brighter in the daytime, but he had also started a medication for Alzheimer’s disease and for depression, so it was hard to say what was helping him.

After three months with CPAP, he did have a sleep complaint:  “Doc, now I am waking up at 3 a.m. and I am wide awake and can’t go back to sleep.”  Well it turns out that he has been going to bed at 7 p.m.  for a long time, but when he had his sleep apnea and his depression treated, his sleep was such poor quality that he slept until seven a.m. and never thought to tell anyone he was sleeping for twelve hours.  Now that his sleep and mood were much improved, he needed only eight to eight and a half hours sleep and he was waking up raring to go, but that was usually at 3 or 4 a.m. because he was still going to sleep at 7 p.m. usually in a chair in front of the television.

So Charlie had a circadian rhythm disorder called advanced sleep phase syndrome whose signs and symptoms had been masked by the long sleep times associated with the other sleep disorder.

People with advanced sleep phase disorder get very sleepy around 7 to 9 in the evening and want to go to bed.  Their sleep is otherwise normal if they have no accompanying sleep disorders.  The problem is most people don’t want to start their day at 3 or 4 a.m.

This disorder is most common in older adults, but it can be caused by a genetic mutation and those people can display advanced sleep phase early in life.

In older adults, there is a decrease in melatonin secretion and this may play role in circadian disturbances.  There are always many studies that show that elderly people get much less bright light than younger people, and I have explained in many other blogs, light is the strongest Zeitgeber (time keeper in German) and provides the strongest stimulation to our wake-promoting neurons.

Therefore, the first-line treatment for circadian rhythm disorders is bright light therapy sometimes accompanied by melatonin, but the timing of each of these therapies is critical.  For Charlie, we had him turn all the lights on in his house at 7 p.m. and he kept them on until 9 p.m.  His goal bedtime was now 10 p.m.  I saw him one month after these recommendations and he was sleeping from approximately 10 p.m. until 6 or 6:30 a.m.  He avoided bright light for an hour or so in the morning if he could.  He did not need the addition of a commercial light box or melatonin.  When I marveled at how easily he was able to change his schedule, he admitted other changes that helped him:  “I do my exercises in the early evening now, and I eat dinner later, and when the bright lights go on I sit in a hardback wooden chair instead of my recliner.”  This is not something I plan to recommend to all my patients, but it worked for him so who was I to dissuade him from his proven methods?

The information contained on this page does not and is not intended to convey medical advice. CNN is not responsible for any actions or inaction on your part based on the information that is presented here. Please consult a physician or medical professional for personal medical advice or treatment.

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Filed under: Brain • Sleep

soundoff (310 Responses)
  1. Chris

    Lol, Im a 23 year old male and "suffer" from exactly his symptoms

    March 22, 2011 at 11:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Also Chris

      This comment seriously creeps me out. I'm about to turn 23 and I've had some memory issues lately that scare me, as I'm usually sharp as a tack. This article jumped out from the page.

      CHRIS FROM THE FUTURE DON'T CREEP ME OUT. I would have said "lol" too.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:15 | Report abuse |
    • Jessica

      Get checked for sleep apnea as anyone can have it. CPAP treatment will make you a new person.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:16 | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      wow.. I'm 24 and this is screaming at me too.

      Must be a Chris thing.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:44 | Report abuse |
    • anon

      I am only 19 and i am dealing with the same thing lately. I'm usually very quick and responsive but lately i feel stupid, i know i am far from that. I might actually get checked for sleep apnea, hopefully its this and nothing really serious.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:58 | Report abuse |
    • SoundGuy

      Here's a great tip to help you fall asleep: play natural sounds in the background and listen actively and attentively to every nuance and subtlety in the sounds. The sounds of nature, like rain, a waterfall, birds, etc, are flowing, but very random, so you can't anticipate anything. This increases your concentration ability and thus releases other stressful, sometimes unconscious thoughts that are preventing you from falling asleep, or from achieving a deep sleep. You can get such sounds from sites like TranscendentalTones.

      March 22, 2011 at 13:35 | Report abuse |
    • Erik

      I am 26 years old, and have the exact symptoms described. I go to sleep from 8-9pm on the weekdays, always feel tired and in a total daze when I wake up and through out my day. I usually get up once or twice in the middle of the night too. I think I will take the advice and get checked out since this has been gettng worse and worse for about 5 years now.

      March 22, 2011 at 13:42 | Report abuse |
    • Jimbo

      You probably have some good herb.

      March 22, 2011 at 14:27 | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Years back I used to work with this guy, Chris Douglass. I'd say to him, "Your name ends with ass..." Such are the ways of being 23

      March 22, 2011 at 20:52 | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      My wife says that I can fall asleep on a pile of cinder block which is probably true during early evening. later on though its a little tougher. We have a "ritual" of drinking a cup of Celestial Seasoning's Sleepy Time tea or even the Sleepy Time extra. Usually knocks us out and allows a pretty peaceful sleep. Give it a try, cheaper than a machine or a Dr.
      MH in St. Louis

      March 22, 2011 at 23:30 | Report abuse |
    • neurosurge

      You need to stop all 1,3,7 trimethylxanthine immediately; this natural compound is a pesticide found in coffee, tea, chocolate, added to soda, etc. another name for it is CAFFEINE. We all produce adenosine during the day when we are awake and our brain has adenosine receptors that act like magnets to recept the calming agent adenosine. Once the receptors are all full, then we begin to get sleepy. The caffeine molecule structure is so similar to adenosine that it tricks the brains' adenosine receptors into receiving the caffeine rather than the adenosine, thus blocking the effects of adenosine which keeps us awake. That is why people drink caffeine....to stay awake. In other words adenosine is highly involved in the sleep cycle. Chronic consumption of caffeine will cause major sleep problems and like a domino here comes the memory, depression, bi-polar symptoms, psychosis, etc. Also, many people are even caffeine toxic and do not even realize it. Caffeine is a mild form of cocaine and highly addictive, which is why they put it in soft drinks. Don't believe the lies that tell of the benefits...there are none.

      It is a natural pesticide, decreases brain blood flow up to 30%, disrupts dopamine and serotonin regulation, disrupts sleep patterns, and wreaks havoc on the CNS.

      B vitamins and a good diet are far superior to having more energy. Cut out all junk carbs...they are a downer.

      March 23, 2011 at 00:45 | Report abuse |
    • Sue

      @ Neurosurge – Thank you for that information! I drink a lot of tea, and I have always pondered the caffeine connection to my sleeplessness. It persisted even after I stopped drinking tea after 5 p.m. - your explanation sheds some light on why.
      Good post.

      March 23, 2011 at 09:05 | Report abuse |
    • ml

      Might not need a CPAP – a TAP device is also very effective depending upon the severity of the sleep apnea and that device is provided through your Dentist at a much lower cost (in case you don't have health insurance.) It helped me.

      March 23, 2011 at 09:41 | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      How do all of us have this and yet I know of no one else directly? I've suffered from this my entire life. It's been a joke in my family since I was really young. "Sleeping in" to me means all the way to 6:30 or 7:00 am. However, the CPAP didn't resolve all of my issues. I'm also being treated for a second sleep disorder, though not formally diagnosed as Narcolepsy; it has most, if not all of the hallmarks. So a double whammy, triple whammy when you include the apnea for me.

      March 23, 2011 at 09:53 | Report abuse |
    • Wendy

      I have a terrible snoring problem, and as a woman, it was hard to accept. I have been reading some of the comments and there were a couple of areas I wanted to address. There was a point in time that I was not sleeping well and every morning I woke up feeling so week and tired I didn't think I could function. However, I took a shower and it got better as the day progressed only to repeat itself the next morning. I went to the doctor telling him that I thought I was riddled with cancer or something and that I wanted a phyical and blood tests run. As it turned out, it was my thyroid (hypo-thyroid) and once pill a day changed my life! Much later in life I was diagnosed with slight sleep apnea, however, my snoring had awakened me 27 times! My point being...is there are many different things that can be a cause for being tired and it is so important to get the correct diagnosis. The doctor that diagnosed my thyroid condition was not even going to test me for it, until I persisted and he even made the statement that he did not think that is what it would be. Well, what do you know???? You are your best advocate for your own body and you have to make the doctor listen to you. If he is not, then find yourself another one that does. I have doctors that listen to me and even if it doesn't seem right to them, they will at least do the tests. Here is my last example...I was being treated for bursitus in my hip for two years. My doctor said that it was not arthritis because I had to much range of motion without pain. I finally insisted on an x-ray and low and behold I had severe arthritis and two bone spurs. I am six weeks into my recovery from a full hip replacement and I am only 51 yrs old! I hope this helps anyone to understand that it is extremely important to get the correct diagnosis and just because a doctor say so doesn't mean it is so.

      March 23, 2011 at 13:14 | Report abuse |
    • Ralph

      I'm 54 and was just diagnosed with sleep apnea and have been on a CPAP for one month now and WOW what difference this has made in how I feel during the day.

      For all of you that are in your 20's and have these symptoms, guess what I have had these same symptoms since I was in my 20's also. So I have suffered with this problem for 30 years, wish I had known about this sooner.

      If you have any of the mentioned symptoms I would highly recommend a sleep study and see the results.

      March 26, 2011 at 10:27 | Report abuse |
    • Hari

      Try alternate nostril breathing while lying on your back while at bed. Close your right nostiril and inhale slowly and deeply with your left nostril. Close the left nostirl and exhale from your right nostirl. Repat this procedure by inhaling from your right nostirl while keeping your left nostril closed and then exhaling from your left nostirl. Do this for 5 minutes daily at your bed. You will get more oxygen supply and your mind get rid of all the thoughts and you fall asleep immediately after this. This breathing excersise also has other health benifits and also helps in curing sleep apnea.

      May 21, 2011 at 12:52 | Report abuse |
  2. mike

    I have trouble falling asleep I just start reading CNN. Puts me out everytime.

    March 22, 2011 at 11:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Tom

    I went thru the whole sleep apnea diagnosis thing. I was told that my insurance would cover me and now I am stuck with several bills totaling over $1,000 and a machine that I stopped using but now own. Lose weight, get in better shape and you will be able to sleep better. I think "sleep apnea" is becoming a big business for hospital centers and doctors.

    March 22, 2011 at 11:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jessica

      It's not always weight related. I've had patients that weighed a ton and others that were skinny as a rail.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:18 | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Weight loss can be part of the solution, but for many patients with obstructive apnea, it alone won't solve the problem. Some people (like myself) still have large tonsils and a breathing pathway that just isn't well built for nighttime respiration. The other thing about weight loss is that it's a vicious cycle - being heavy exacerbates apnea symptoms, but apnea saps your energy and contributes to weight loss.

      March 22, 2011 at 14:01 | Report abuse |
    • Tooth guy

      As an orthodontist I know that sleep apnea can be caused by an underdeveloped maxilla and mandible that lead to a constricted airway. Treatment can be an appliance to position the mandible more forward opening the airway or in more extreme cases surgery to reposition the jaws more forward.

      March 22, 2011 at 14:08 | Report abuse |
    • lmew

      I started having trouble breathing when I was sleeping after I had jaw surgery.

      March 22, 2011 at 14:15 | Report abuse |
    • Gerald

      Sleep apnea is a real problem. The trouble with our medical system is that it is only treated with CPAP machines. Those who can't tolerate the machines or have other issues which make their use difficult or impossibly are left out in the cold. In addition, many people are diagnosed with sleep apnea simply to sell them (or their insurance company) a CPAP machine. Often, the same doctor who diagnoses sleep apnea just happens (go figure) to sell CPAP treatments. Meanwhile, those who can benefit more from surgical treatments, and there are several very effective ones, are not even told that they have that option; because the CPAP selling doctors and the insurance companies are working together to only sell CPAP to patients. It borders on fraudulent and needs to be thoroughly investigated and regulated. It's not about treating patients. It's about making money off of sleep apnea. Just like most of the rest of our medical system, geared towards profit not health.

      March 22, 2011 at 15:36 | Report abuse |
    • tsteven3

      In reference to Gerald:

      I wish you were right, but you're wrong.

      As a sleep apnea sufferer, I know the failure rate for surgery is above 80% after six months. Weight loss can help most people, but it's very difficult given that metabolism slows down when people don't get enough sleep. CPAP is the most effective treatment.

      March 22, 2011 at 16:55 | Report abuse |
  4. Real Advise

    Poor,Poor, Charlie. It must be the weather and not his privaleged extra caricular activities.

    March 22, 2011 at 11:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Anthony

    I use a sleep method that I wish Lisa would take some time to study. My story is too long for posting, but I developed my own method of sleep that is just off the map. I have recovered from so many health issues, that there has to be something to it.

    March 22, 2011 at 12:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Name*Steve

    Several years ago I was diagnosed with a thyroid condition and sleep apnea. The apnea was so bad that my muscles were breaking down, my memory was horrible and according to the doctor, psychosis and death were the next step. I now use a bipap machine and have gone from 12-13 hours in bed to 7-8 hours a night, feel refreshed every day and when I got back to work after a month couldn't believe the mistakes I had been making and could not see them prior to treatment. It makes me wonder how many people have died younger than they should have, in the past, who's problem was lack of quality sleep was not diagnosed.

    March 22, 2011 at 12:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jessica

      Great that you are better Steve. Sleep apnea is a huge strain on the body and affects all of it's systems. Get checked if needed!

      March 22, 2011 at 12:20 | Report abuse |
    • Michael Jozwiak

      I've had the machine for about 3 months now and find that it has really helped. I am 62. It was difficult to get used to using and sleeping on my back, but I've overcome it. I used to get vey tired about 930AM at work and performed poorly, but now that feeling is gone and accuity is up. I never would have guessed I had sleep apnea. I recomment everyone with some symptons get tested. The "sleep lab" was fun! BTW Jessica - it's is not the possessive form; it is the contraction for it is. its is the possessive.

      March 22, 2011 at 12:42 | Report abuse |
    • Vardon

      I changed from CPAP to BiPAP 5 years ago and found it easier to sleep with because of the reduced pressure when breathing out. BiPAP (variable/bilevel positive airway pressure) provides two levels of pressure: inspiratory positive airway pressure (IPAP) and a lower expiratory positive airway pressure (EPAP) for easier exhalation. The humidity chamber was imperative for me. If I forget to fill the chamber with water, the dry air wakes me up.

      March 22, 2011 at 15:37 | Report abuse |
  7. CFS Facts

    How many doctors don't make this connection? I reported that I was sleeping only 2 hours a night due to pain and instead of x-rays (which would've shown 3 fractured vertebrae), was told I was "just depressed", and "faking" the memory loss/cognitive dysfunction (which resulted from years of poor sleep due to pain). Once someone LISTENED and treated the pain, my brain came back.

    March 22, 2011 at 12:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Anthony

      Very similar nightmare story. Suffered from TIA's and was told I was "nuts". Neurologist sent me over to a Psychiatrist who proceeded to pump me with drugs!! It wasn't until recently (after almost 7 years of suffering) that a different doctor mentioned that my leukemia may very well been the root cause of my TIA's. Either way, I no longer put much trust in these wonder, over educated experts. Most of them get paid by the drug companies!!

      March 22, 2011 at 12:22 | Report abuse |
  8. Reba

    My husband (in his 30's) had this issue. He was like a walking zombie, couldn't focus, always tired and depressed. He was finally diagnosed with sleep apnea 2 years ago. He uses the CPAP every night and wouldn't give it up for anything. The CPAP has made all the difference! He is a new person. He is a much more active, social and happy person. In retrospect, he realized that he has never slept well and he didn't realize how bad the sleep apnea had become. For him, it was a life saver!

    March 22, 2011 at 12:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. TMM 4 USC

    I have obstructive sleep apnea and have been using a CPAP machine for 7+ years now. On average I stopped breathing for up to 106 seconds per episode and had a many as 30-35 episodes hourly. I must say I feel much better now and have more energy since I've been using the CPAP machine. While the nasal mask is not the most comfortable device and there are nights when I dread putting it on, I do use my CPAP regularly and do not sleep well when I fall asleep without using it. I urge everyone who thinks they might have OSA to have a sleep study performed. It just may save your life. Plus your significant other will appreciate a better (quiet) night sleep too since your snoring will be minimized / eliminated. My healthcare provider paid 100% for the test and equipment, and replacement items (hoses, filters, masks, etc.) are free as well.

    March 22, 2011 at 12:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. B Morales

    I am a 50 yr old male . My snoring was so loud whenj I took my family camping People 200 yards away would flash their lights and yell to fpr me to stop. I did the slepe study and it indicated I had severe apnea with waking episodes upwards of 50 per hour. The first night I used the cpap device I felt 20 years younger I must of suffered for ten years I would fall asleep driving at mid day and could not stay awake in the office CPAP therapy saved my life and career . Please get checked if you have any symptoms. My wife doesnt have to lie wake to make sure I am breathing

    March 22, 2011 at 12:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. MsJLB

    My son is 11 years old and for the past year I have been unable to wake him in the morning without a huge meltdown. He gets enough sleep, between 8 and 9 hours a night, but in the morning when he should be waking he is in the deepest phase of sleep. It's not apnea, I'm convinced that his circadian rhythm is messed up and he is not cycling properly in his sleep phases. I don't have an MD, but those to whom I have taken him for bipolar symptoms as well as the inexpliable reality of him waking up violently like he has been woken at 3 a.m. instead of 7 a.m., groggy and incoherent, and physically having to drag him to a sitting position and help him stand up, they have given me every explanation BUT a sleep disorder. He also has cognitive issues in school–I'm praying that his is all due to the circadian rhythm being messed up. I am now going to try photo light therapy (I bought a light box) which is supposed to help re-adjust the sleep cycles. Fingers crossed. I cannot tell you how awful this has been, both for me and especially for my son. He feels "different," for all of the issues that have risen from what I believe is the root cause of this problem. Other parents should investigate this if they suspect the same thing. I don't understand why doctors know less about this than me...

    March 22, 2011 at 12:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tami

      MsJLB, please take your son and have a sleep study done if you have not already.My son has ADHD and was acting EXACTLY like your son. If i didn't physically hold him up in the morning he would fall over, he was just that groggy. We found out he does have some sleep apnea but the real problem was Restless Leg Syndrome. He was kicking his legs over 20 times an hour and never getting into a deep stage of sleep until about 6am- when i was trying to wake him up for school. The doctor gave him some meds to stop his leg kicking and i cannot tell you the change, and yes, even doing better in school. Just as an FYI if you have a good sleep doctor they can tell the difference if it is bipolar/ADHD or just a sleep issue of some sort. You can get a 504 plan at school to help him during his transition so he can take longer on tests, etc. Hope this info helps! If your son was like mine, i was wore out from going through this with him, hang in there! : )

      March 22, 2011 at 14:50 | Report abuse |
    • Karen

      8-9 hours for an 11-year-old is not enough sleep per night according to Dr. Ferber (who advises at least 10 hours) and WebMD (which suggests 10-11 hours).

      I can empathize with your miserable mornings–I have an 11-year-old too and she *needs* 10 hours/night, otherwise she is an absolute bear. The only way I can get her to go to bed early enough so that she gets that 10 hours is if she avoids all screen time (computer/TV) for an hour or two before bedtime, and if she gets enough exercise earlier in the day, otherwise she just won't fall asleep. Good luck–I know it is hard, hard, hard! I wish schools started at 9 or 9:30 especially for middle and high schoolers!

      March 22, 2011 at 16:00 | Report abuse |
    • Kate

      I've suffered from hypothyroidism for years and your son's symptoms sound very familiar to me. As a teenager and young adult I had a hard time falling asleep and would often stay awake all night until around 5:30 am. Unfortunately I had to get up for school or work around 6:30 am. I was always so groggy in the morning that when I got in my twenties I was always late to work because it took forever for me to get out of bed. I did not get diagnosed with low thyroid until the age of 30. It's probably not likely that your son has thyroid issues, but it runs in your family as it does in mine, you should get him tested every so often just to rule it out. It's a simple blood test. I also suffered from dementia like symptoms in my twenties, dry skin, brittle nails and depression. I finally went to the doctor and asked to be tested when at the age of 30 I gained 40 lbs in 2 months with no change in my diet. Good luck.

      March 23, 2011 at 00:30 | Report abuse |
  12. Lynn

    My 10 year old daughter has been complaining for several months of waking up several times during the night. Made sure she didn't eat anything or do anything too stimulating, such as video games, after 7PM. But this did not help much. Then one night she got into bed with me when she woke up so suddenly it scared her. Within a few minutes she was back to sleep, but after a bit had labored breathing. Then she stopped breathing. I was about to grab her when she gasped and started breathing again. She rolled over and had a more restful sleep the rest of the night. But I hardly slept, kept listening to her. Noticed when she had trouble it was in certain positions. Took her to see an ENT a few days later. She has enlarged tonsils and in some postions they block her airway. She is scheduled to have them removed as soon as school is done. In the meantime, we arrange pillows around her to keep her on her side and make sure her chin is not tucked down. She has been sleeping better. Hopefully the surgery will correct the problem fully.

    March 22, 2011 at 13:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • rmerriam

      When you have the surgery done make sure the surgeon is using "Cold Ablation" as the technique. It removes the tissue but does little damage to the blood vessels and underlying tissue. I had it done in '04 and ate a ham sandwich that evening.

      March 22, 2011 at 13:26 | Report abuse |
    • D

      Yes! Please listen to the person who mentioned cold ablation. I've never commented on CNN, but this is so important. I had my tonsillectomy done by electrocautery and it was SO painful, I ended up in the ER on morphine two days later, my throat filled with blisters, unable to eat or drink.

      March 22, 2011 at 14:39 | Report abuse |
  13. David

    Now they are also trying to sell CPAP to people with age related memory problems? This is nothing but business for them to make money. Even dentists are getting into this business. It's all BS. Most people don't need it, only those who have true sleep apnea. I went through sleep studies, and they didn't want to let me sleep on my side, because then I might not have sleep apnea and they could not give me cpap (that's what they actually said). Poor them! Have you noticed that all those sleep centers sell the equipment?? Scam!

    March 22, 2011 at 13:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ssnevasail

      I wish you well. But your reaction is understood. I resisted for many years even being willing to discuss any aspect of being hooked up to a machine. Turned out I was wrong. Stubborness can shorten your quality of life, or end it prematurely. Keep an open mind and an open airway.

      March 22, 2011 at 13:30 | Report abuse |
    • ellid

      Just because you *start* to sleep on your side doesn't mean you will stay in that position all night. Sleep apnea is not a scam.

      March 22, 2011 at 13:36 | Report abuse |
    • KJC

      They have you sleep on your back because 1) they need to know if you have apneas in that position since that is the worst position to sleep in as far as apneas and also 2) because they have to attach many electrodes all around your body and on top of your head that if you shifted from side to side you would rip them off.

      March 22, 2011 at 14:32 | Report abuse |
  14. Moose

    Wait, what was I going to say? What was this article about? I suddenly can't remember.

    March 22, 2011 at 13:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. ssnevasail

    I had a 2 night hospital sleep study done last summer. The intial night results showed severe OSA with over 100 episodes an hour. The second night a few weeks later with a CPAP being used was more than remarkable. I hadn't slept that restfully in 20 plus years. Being on Medicare my cost of the two nights study was $680. Medicare picked up most of the expense of the equipment. Bottom line, I sincerely believe that this literally extended my life. The CPAP is an item I travel with. Can't imagine being without it. Enjoyable to use? No! Worthwhile? A resoundiing yes.

    March 22, 2011 at 13:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Nonimus

    Is it just me or is absolutely no explanation of the acronym "CPAP" anywhere in this article? I realize that googleing is simple and quick, which is what I did, but I would expect a blogger and sleep expert, or at least an editor, to know to include a the full version of the acronym at least once in an article.

    BTW, it's "continuous positive airway pressure" according to Wikipedia.

    March 22, 2011 at 13:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. KinNYC

    I sleep less than 5 hours a night for 2 years now. My MD put me through every test imaginable with no results. He said drink wine. It would take a full bottle to get me to sleep longer than 4 hours straight. I've tried over-the-counter sleeping pills and melatonin. I'm exhausted all day. But after getting home from work, eating and puttsing, I get to bed around 11:30 or 12:00. 4:44 am is the magic wake up time this week. I am 5'7" and 145 lbs. I eat 3 healthy meals a day. I'm at a point where sometimes I just want to end it. Luckily I sometimes get a nap on the weekends. Worse is my family is not very sympathetic.

    March 22, 2011 at 13:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Karen

      KinNYC, go to another doctor. There are medications that can help. Meds like Lunesta and Ambien are often made to sound super scary because of some rare side effects (sleep walking, eating, etc.) but I have found that they have made a huge difference in my life. I used to dread going to bed because I would wake up every couple of hours all night long once I finally fell asleep. I felt groggy and disoriented during the day. I'm not addcted. I can go without the meds, although I don't sleep well.

      Don't let other people define what you are feeling. If your regular doctor is not helping you, try finding a sleep specialist or just try another GP. Some doctors have little imagination to figure out what is wrong.

      Have you ever tried just Benadryl? It makes a lot of people very sleepy (not me!) and it is very safe.

      March 22, 2011 at 13:49 | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      I agree with all Karen said, although I'd avoid continued use of benadryl. Antihistamines can have some negative health consequences for some people (e.g., those with high blood pressure or thyroid problems). I use both Lunesta and Ambien (in rotation - not on the same night!) and have had some success with others. Another option is the benzo family (e.g., clonazepam), although benzos aren't recommended for long-term use because of their addictive properties. If anxiety is a major reason why you aren't able to settle down and rest, though, they can definitely help.

      March 22, 2011 at 14:06 | Report abuse |
  18. Facilities

    Poor Charlie,must be the weather.

    March 22, 2011 at 13:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Cyg

    Seems GOP suffers from this moreso than anyone else, I wonder why that would be...

    March 22, 2011 at 13:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Liza

    When I sleep a solid 7 – 8 hours, I feel like a million bucks. I'm sharp and I look great. People really under value the benefits of sleep. Besides, sleeping is fun!

    March 22, 2011 at 13:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Tony

    Oh come on!
    Just because you don't get enough sleep, it doesn't mean.... What were we discussing?

    March 22, 2011 at 13:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. John

    I've had a sleep disturbance for over 15 years, and I can report that NOTHING works right unless you get enough sleep. My wife says that sometimes I snore, but there's no way I could sleep with a mask pressed over my face–it's too reminiscent of the childhood experience that led to the sleep disturbance.

    March 22, 2011 at 14:09 | Report abuse | Reply
    • PK

      John, ,there are masks that do not cover the face. I use a "Nasal-Aire II" mask. This is very similar to the oxygen tubes you see hospital patients use. It is made of silicone (i.e., it's soft!), and it has two "prongs" that fit your nostrils. It is comfortable even when sleeping on your side. Check it out on-line. You might find that this "mask" is acceptable.

      March 22, 2011 at 14:27 | Report abuse |
  23. SAM

    Nope,Wrong.....Stay off the ALCOHOL

    March 22, 2011 at 14:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Chris G.

    I'm 26 and suffer from Sleep Apnea and it has been intensifying as of late. I have been seriously depressed and can't remeber things I've done only but a few minutes ago. I use my CPAP but its not helping. This article has put a lot into perspective. As mentioned above this sounds like a Chris thing lol. All kidding aside I think SA sufferers have a hard rime with day to day functions as a result.

    March 22, 2011 at 14:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Afell

    "Sleep Clinics" have become one of the quickest ways for so-called health specialists to separate the patient (and his or her health insurance company) from their money. Granted, there are some people who have real, life-threatening sleep disorders, but the majority of us are carrying too much weight. This should be one of the first things your GP should tell you.

    Are you carrying an extra 40-50+ pounds of weight? If you want to sleep more soundly, change your eating habits and increase your activity level. I'm not talking drastic changes, either.

    Start controlling your portions by eating half what you ate before and add a couple of healthy fruit or vegetable snacks in between meals so you don't feel hungry. Don't give up anything that you would usually eat, just eat less of it. Yes, this includes desert, so limit yourself to a few bites of Chunky Monkey instead of polishing off the whole pint. And for goodness sake, don't skip any meals. You will end up eating more than you should once you can finally eat.

    Start taking the dog out for a 30 minute walk each day instead of letting him out in the back yard, or if you don't have a dog, offer to walk the neighbor's dog or take yourself for a walk. Instead of hunting for the parking place closest to the store, take one further out and walk the distance.

    Find a good active hobby or craft that gets you out of the house: woodworking, blacksmithing, hiking, basketweaving, etc. It's amazing what little changes like this will do to your waistline and your sleep.

    March 22, 2011 at 15:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Richard

      I agree, I have 2 bad disks that wake me anywhere from 3 to 10 times a night, my work comp dr, sez get used to it. My regular dr. wants a sleep study.. I know my problem it's pain! Dammed insurance co's anyhow, The work Comp'd be happy to drive me to sucide, and the other is just in it for the money.

      March 22, 2011 at 18:47 | Report abuse |
  26. Marny

    Loved this article!! Resonates profounding, especially since my sleep has been disturbed for over 3 weeks by a horrible shoulder blade pain. Muscle relaxer, pain meds, chiropractic adjustments did help for a few hours but not at night. Yesterday I took another type of med, changed my pillow to that flat-on-one-side/curved on the other and slept great!

    I have had 2 sleep apnea tests, both done at home, and found to have 'slight' problem ... but nothing else was suggested, except to lose weight before a mask would be given. A friend's husband was at least 400 lbs and he had a mask his doctor ordered for him.

    We human beings are like a formation of dominoes - when one is hit, it hit the next one which hits the next one, etc.

    The "Universe" should have made us solar!

    Hobbies might help to divert the attention to pain but my hobbies had to be stopped during these 3 weeks. Sleep deprivation HAD been robbing me of Quality of Life!! I feel much, much better today.

    This was a Wake-Up Article - and much appreciated - I'm sending it to others.

    March 22, 2011 at 15:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Ben

    Sleep Apnea can do a lot more than create memory problems. It can cause heart disease, hypertension and a whole list of problems. I was not tested for sleep apnea until I was in my late 40's. That was after I was diagnosed with heart failure and in fact had had a quadruple bypass surgery and a whole list of problems. If you snore, that can also be a good sign of sleep apnea. Get tested!

    March 22, 2011 at 16:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Sally

    Listen, guys...Sleep apnea is no joking matter. I was hospitalised for a non related matter, and was rudely awakened by a nurse and two attending MDs at 3am. They were shaking me, talking to me and slapping my face until I used the F-bomb. Fortunately, my room mate hit her buzzer when she didn't hear me snoring.. I didn't like C-PAP either, The hospital variety is HUGE, noisy, and uses a "Michael Myers" type mask. It also saves lives. I no longer fall asleep in the afternoon or have momentary blackouts.
    You can also get a very small mask, and find specially designed pillows for side sleeping. PS. I sleep like a baby, and love sleeping on my back.

    March 22, 2011 at 16:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. roblake

    What I haven't seen mentioned is a dental appliance that moves the lower jaw forward. Been using one for about 5 years. Don't know if it works completely, but my wife says I still snore, but not as loudly. Original appliance (looks a bit like a full set of dentures, but slips over the upper and lower teeth, with rubber bands providing the jaw-thrusting action) cost $1000 at a
    specialist; current one was $700 from my local dentist.

    March 22, 2011 at 16:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Suffered a lot

    Yea. I have an extensive history of sleep disorder as well. And i blank out a lot...recently started to use "Sleep Bot Tracker Log" on my Android, helped me a lot. Rec for everyone who have similar problems.

    March 22, 2011 at 17:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Rob E

    I have had this problem for years. I am 55 years old. This malady comes and goes every 3 months but lasts a month at a time. I would wake up every 45 minutes to urinate all night long. Finally it will fade away. I found that an over the counter sleeping pill, nothing stronger, will help tremendously. Lay off the precscription stuff. It doesn't work right, you will be up in 1 hour. when you wake up at 3:00 eat something small such as a muffin. It will help wou fall back to sleep much easier. I also recommend a slightly open window ( 1-2 inches) for fresher air. If you sleep cool you will sleep better than adding eaxtra blankets. It's the little stuff that makes it bearable.

    March 22, 2011 at 17:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Smegly

    Stasha Gominak, MD, neurologist, and sleep specialist, discusses sleep disorders, including and mainly, sleep apnea in a five part video of a symposium for health care providers. It can be found in youtube using these keywords:

    Stasha Gominak sleep disorders

    For those of you like me, that don't have insurance or independent means to afford the standard treatment, her suggestions may just do the trick. For those of you who hate using the CPAP, you might find this as an alternative.

    March 22, 2011 at 18:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Rebecca

    I take a generic brand of the sleep medicine Restoril. It takes awhile to work, but I sleep well once I do go to sleep but I wake up fairly early and once I am awake, I can't go back to sleep. I used to weigh almost 270 lbs and was diagnosed with sleep apnea, was put on a CPAP machine but I could not sleep with it on. Now that I am only in the 130's weight I don't know if I still have it, but I once had an ear nose and throat doc tell me I had the biggest tonsils she's ever seeb,

    March 22, 2011 at 21:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Mathew Roy

    some times I can't sleep at all, and I forget a lot things, peoples names, and dates, but I fell like I full of energy after not sleeping, and I also wake up doing some thing I don't remeber doing or I feel like I skip through time I walk forward look at the time it said 11:00 on the clock I look forward the next thing I know the T.V. was shut off I look at the time it said 4:00 clock I feel like a second want by when this happen is there something wrong with me? if any one reads this reply to me at yahoo.com My email address is mathew.roy18@yahoo.com I just want to know if there is something wrong with me please reply 🙂

    March 22, 2011 at 21:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. DSianna78

    CPAP therapy is not a scam! I know of many sleep apnea sufferers where CPAP has changed their lives drastically. Sleep apnea is very hard on the heart. When you have apnea events where your airway closes up during sleep, your oxygen levels in your body fall drastically, causing the heart to overwork trying to bring the oxygen levels back up. This weakens the heart over the years without a diagnosis. Severe sleep apnea can occur as many as 60 times per hour, where the closed airway causes a person to not breathe for as long as 80 seconds. CPAP keeps the airway open with a constant flow of air. And as for the sleep labs selling the "machines" – I have not heard of this. Most do NOT. They refer the patient to a DME (Durable Medical Equipment) company that sets up an appointment with the patient to obtain the CPAP machine. Please do not post such BS without the facts!!!

    March 22, 2011 at 21:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. eldestof3

    Severe sleep apnea here, I use a bi-pap, reluctantly, and sometimes go for periods without using it at all. Wondering if anybody could address their feelings about the maintenance of the equipment. Mine requires three pieces be washed after each use, the hose, the face mask, and the water tank. If I don't get it washed up first thing in the morning, then typically it's not ready to be used that night and I'm in no mood to do the washing up at bedtime. It bugs me. Any comments would be welcome. And thanks for the referral to You Tube to Dr. Gominak, it was marvelous and I'm going to take action along those lines.

    March 22, 2011 at 23:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Sleep Tech Joe

    I'm a Registered Polysomnography Technologist, and have been performing diagnostic sleep studies for almost 30 years. There are over 90 different sleep disorders, but Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is the most common. Sleep apnea is an 'equal-opportunity' condiition. Just about anyone can have it, and not be aware they are at risk. Being overweight is a big factor, but anything that can affect breathing and the upper airway (big tonsils, nasal or sinus problems, allergies,narcotic pain and other medications, jaw problems,etc) can affect sleep. Basically, changes in breathing during sleep cause fluctuations in oxygen supply to the brain, low oxygen is what wakes you up. You can demonstrate this by holding your breath for 15 seconds while taking your your pulse, your heart rate slows to compensate for decreased oxygen, when you resume breathing, heart rate speeds up and returns to baseline.This is a comtributing factor for sudden cardiac death at night, stroke, diabetes, and many other serious heath problems. It also affects cognition and memory, can cause or make depression worse, and affects every aspect of your life, and those of your family and friends. The main symptoms are daytime sleepiness, snoring, poor quality sleep, changes in memory, and witnessed pauses in breathing. Sleep deprivation from frequeint awakening at night can cause all kinds of problems. One of my patients fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into a school bus full of children at 8AM one mornihg (luckily, no one was injured) . He was a commercial truck driver! Not every doctor has the specialized training and experience to diagnose sleep apnea. Be sure you ask to get tested at an accredited sleep center. Unfortunately, there are some doctors out there who are primarily interested in parting you from your money. CPAP/BIPAP is a very effective therapy. If you have the equipment, and don't use it, contact the prescribing doctor. Most legitimate suppliiers will do most anything to help you acclimate to the therapy.Dental appliances are also an effective treatment for people who cannot tolerate CPAP, but require skilled dental professionals to properly evaluate each patient to make them work effectively. I've had sleep apnea for years, and CPAP has changed my life (fell asleep at the wheel twice before getting treatment). For all the posters who have a sleep complaint, the most important thing is to get your condition evaluated by a qualified sleep professional. Your life may depend on it!

    March 23, 2011 at 02:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • eldestof3

      To Sleep Tech Joe: I do believe you were addressing my comment about not using my bipap, and I thank you. It is a fact for me that the providers of my equipment are very helpful. All right, I will give them a call and just see what they have to say about washing out the equipment every day. I'm currently in a fairly bad way, mis-reading things that I catch later, and as a previous poster mentioned, forgetting things from minute to minute, flat mood, functioning poorly at home in terms of noting what's needed at the grocery store and then preparing food for the family, and a sense of not caring. My brain has turned to mush. Sometimes I wake up at the keyboard out of a vivid dream and even begin to type the last words spoken in the dream. So what's my problem, you ask!! Should be a no-brainer to use my bipap!! It's general reluctance to use the equipment and be strict about the sleep hygiene. By the way, the issue of meeting myself coming and going is big–after getting home from work and preparing dinner, it's actually time to go to bed in order to allow for the 10-12 hours I'll need to make up for the sleep deficit. Well, I watch TV for an hour and often fall asleep on the couch. I'm admitting my sins here. Sleep Tech Joe, whaddaya got for me? I do thank you.

      March 23, 2011 at 06:45 | Report abuse |
  38. Damn sleepless

    To Sleep Tech Joe: Wow, I would like to thanks fo your Education program that what i am looking for stop Sleepless Time during middle early morning alll of the time make wake up. for near two year. I wil talk my doctor about that.

    March 23, 2011 at 07:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Me too

    My wife would lay awake at night just to ensure that I wasn't dead. I would stop breathing for a very long time. I had a CPAP machine (very old) and didn't use it. I went to our sleep clinic and they have given me a new machine which does something wonderful... it auto adjusts the pressure for me! My old machine was set at "8" and my new machine has ramped me up to "11". I feel like a new man. Also, I get new masks and hoses every six months! yah.. On cleaning the machine, I just use wipes daily and tuck it into the cloth bag it came in. Keep the dust out.

    It changed my life. If you sound like the rest of us and don't look like Darth Vader every night... see your GP to schedule an appt. today. OSA kills.

    March 23, 2011 at 11:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Jorge

    Sleep apnea will slowly kill you one day at a time, I recently moved to Georgia with chronic sinus headaches and bronchitis that were taking their toll on me and would get worse during the pollen season. It got to where I couldn't remember a phone number just given to me and I was making all kinds of mistakes at work. I was also coping with repeat bouts of depression and painful muscle cramps. A coworker recommended a pneumologist that had performed a sleep study on him and that he swore by, so I went and discovered that I had a deviated nasal septum (product of a rough lifestyle during my youth) that was causing me to stop breathing 13 times per hour during sleep, now I sleep with a CPAP machine and, notwithstanding my struggle to recuperate my old stamina and strength, I have discovered that I have a LOT more energy, immune resistance and concentration than before.

    March 23, 2011 at 12:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. CPAP

    When my doctor started questioning me about snoring and day time drowsiness I knew where he was going with this and at first I had my little denial hat on. I figured I was going to end up with one of those Darth Vader masks on while I sleep, I was hoping I wouldn't have to go that route, but I ended up with CPAP machine anyway.

    I can say now that I have been using the CPAP that why didn't t do this sooner. This little device has been like a miracle in my life, I cannot believe how much better I feel from getting a good restful nights sleep. This CPAP machine is a life saver.

    March 23, 2011 at 17:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Mert

    Yea, I sit her after trying to go to sleep tonight with horrible results. I swear I woke up feeling like I was passing out. Heart was POUNDING, I was very disoriented for about a minuet till everything came back. Scary stuff. I have been fighting this on and off for about 7 years. Two years ago I had a "home health" sleep study with some devices they dropped off . Said I was borderline. I don't have a CPAP machine but would try anything at this point. One night I fell asleep with an oximiter on my finger tip and when I wokd up gasping I noticed my O2 level was down in the low 90s. It would start to climb back up after a minuet but I would fall asleep and then repeat the process. This could explain a lot in my case, the anxiety, blood pressure. Just don't want to go to the doctor again to have them not listen to me...

    March 29, 2011 at 02:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. davidadams281

    Sleep is one major factor when it comes to all sorts of mental health issues. Lack of sleep can sometimes hasten symptoms and is why it's important to address this early on in therapy.

    Light therapy works wonders as well and is one of the best ways to go.

    Great article and I hope it helped others as much as it did for me.


    March 30, 2011 at 07:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. susiep

    I have sleep apnea and went to a sleep study and started on the cpap, but it didn't do anything for me. I couldn't sleep well with it on because if I turn over I have to wake up to make sure that thing is in place with me and didn't like the noise of it either. It also rubbed sores under my nose between that and my upper lip.

    April 2, 2011 at 14:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Kris

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    April 12, 2011 at 02:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. mzrecycle

    I'm a woman, 64. I've snored for a long as I can remember (age 4). Have 2 brothers that are on CPAP, 1 quite young altho not heavy. This is an inherited structure situation. For most of my life I was sharp as a tack. With menopause, I started having some sleep problems. At 50, I divorced. Right after, my mom died. I started going to sleep with the TV on, as I found it easier to FALL asleep when I didn't have to think.

    My energy level started to drop about 4 years ago. My memory also. Memory got really bad. About 6 years ago I started doing a lot of gardening, which was good for me physically, but I'd be so tired that I'd fall asleep around 7. If not earlier. I would try to watch the evening news and often fall asleep on the couch. Not surprisingly, I'd wake in the middle of the night.

    Now that is a pattern. I may stay awake till 9, but I will still awake in the night most nights. I'm now taking all sorts of supplements and meds since seeing a doc for hormone replacement. It has helped some, but not as much as I'd hoped. I'm now on thyroid, estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. There are several other meds.

    I'm not thrilled to think I need to start CPAP, but I'm also not happy to be tired and have such a lousy memory. My husband says I snore, but he doesn't hear apnea incidents very often. He's on CPAP, so he knows. I'm such a light sleeper, I can't imagine I could adjust to CPAP. As a woman, I think I'd probably have to cut my hair REALLY short like my husband's, as my hair would get all weird with that headgear. It's also very thick, so washing and drying every morning would take about an hour. I look really goofy with short hair. I guess appearance will just have to be 2nd to good sleep if it restores my memory...

    May 29, 2011 at 07:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Elise

    I've seen so many people who had the problem of insomnia are cured by Maha Meditation; it's one of the best ways to get rid of sleep disorders.

    June 15, 2011 at 22:01 | Report abuse | Reply
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