Better Sleep Means Better Health

Better Sleep Means Better Health


These days, most of us feel that sleep has become a rare delicacy, yet all the while it is a basic biological need, as important to health and well being as diet and exercise. In fact, according to the National Sleep Foundation, some 40 percent of Americans don’t get adequate sleep for a variety of reasons – cultural, attitudinal, environmental, and medical. Dallas otolaryngologist Dr. Craig Schwimmer, MD, MPH, FACS, is one of America’s foremost sleep experts and the nation’s leading provider of the Pillar Procedure, a minimally-invasive treatment for snoring and mild-to-moderate sleep apnea. So, as we adjust to long days and warm weather, Dr. Schwimmer offers several tips for keeping sleep a priority.

Americans have greater difficulty getting good sleep in spring and summer more than any other time of the year:

The “spring forward” of Daylight Savings Time is a leap too far for many of us and fifteen hours of light during the summer months keeps us active long in to the evening. The body likes predictability, patterns, and repetition. We also need darkness to signal to our bodies that we’re getting ready to sleep.

Sleep is a basic biologic need. Our bodies (and our minds) require healthy, restorative sleep for optimal functioning:

1. Losing as little as one hour’s sleep per night hurts everything from memory and intellectual performance to emotional outlook to our ability to perform complex tasks (like doing our jobs or driving our cars).

2. Over 60 percent of Americans do not get the recommended 8 hours of sleep each night.

3. Sleep loss costs the economy an estimated $150 billion each year; 51 percent of the American workplace reports that daytime fatigue interferes with the amount of work they get done; 68 percent of adults say that sleepiness interferes with their concentration.

4. Sleep loss has been linked to high blood pressure, higher risk for stroke and heart disease, obesity, erectile dysfunction, heartburn, depression and more.

Another impediment to good sleep is the summer allergy season:

Allergy symptoms, particularly nasal allergy symptoms, are notorious for interrupting sleep. A stopped up, runny nose, and the facial congestion and pressure make it very difficult for many people to sleep well.

Here are some coping strategies to control nasal allergy symptoms, and treatment options:

1. Avoid things you are allergic to. If you have grass or pollen allergies, try not to cut your grass. If you have to, wear a mask. If you are allergic to cats, please don’t let your cat sleep in your bed.

2. Use salt water sprays to rinse your nose. Using an over the counter salt water solution can reduce nasal allergy symptoms by reducing the amount of allergens inside the nose. Neti pots work very well, too.

3. If those measures alone don’t do the trick, your doctor can prescribe medications to control your symptoms. Nasal steroid sprays are the first line of medical therapy.

4. They are very safe (there really is no systemic effect – they just act locally within the nose), and extremely effective at treating nasal symptoms. If a nasal steroid spay alone isn’t enough, a non-sedating antihistamine may be used in addition.

If that isn’t enough, you may consider additional options, including weekly allergy shots, or Turbinate Coblation:

1. Using radiofrequency energy, turbinate coblation reduces the size of turbinates located inside the nose; nasal allergy sufferers frequently endure swollen turbinates, increasing nasal congestion.

2. Post-procedure, congestion is significantly reduced, thereby eliminating many of the physical discomforts associated with nasal allergies.

In recent years there have been several treatment advancements made available for the evaluation and treatment of snoring and sleep apnea. These are now safer, more effective, non-invasive treatments made available to the sleep-deprived public.

Snoring is more than just an embarrassment and can be indicative of more serious health problems. Even mild snoring can disrupt sleep, depriving snorers and their bed partners of the rest they need. Lack of sleep can cause everything from fatigue and shorter tempers to decreased job performance and auto accidents.  Patients can now benefit from a better night’s sleep, improving both their physical and personal lives with the right treatment option.

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