Posts Tagged ‘apnea’

When tiredness, sleepiness can be warning signs

January 9, 2020

The title of this post is the same as the title of an article by Emily Sohn in the Health and Science section of the 17 December 2019 issue of the Washington Post. In conversation, people use the terms sleepiness, fatigue, and tiredness interchangeably. But their definitions do differ medically. Sleepiness is a need of sleep that makes it difficult to stay awake, even while driving, working, or watching a movie, and even after ingesting caffeine.

On the other hand, fatigue is a deeper sort of an inability, either physical or mental, to do what you want to do, such as get to the grocery store. In the middle is tiredness, a desire to rest that is less debilitative than fatigue and less dramatic than sleepiness. One can still be productive while tired.

In a 2014 survey by the nonprofit National Sleep Foundation, 45% of adults said they had been affected by poor sleep or not enough sleep in the previous week. As many as 20% of people report excessives sleepiness on a regular basis. A National Safety Council survey reported in 2017 that 76% of people felt tired at work. If you’re bothered by how tired you feel, there might be some simple explanations. The most basic is not enough sleep. A third of Americans don’t get the recommended seven or more hours a night, according toe the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And as needs very widely, even seven hours isn’t enough sleep for many people. And one should not set their alarm for exactly seven hours of sleep, because nobody sleeps 100% of the time that they’re in bed. So it might take eight hours of pillow time to get seven hours of sleep.

Should tiredness be making it hard for you to get through most days or otherwise getting in your way, experts recommend visiting a primary-care clinic first to be evaluated for common causes of fatigue or tiredness, including depression, autoimmune diseases, vitamin levels, and thyroid issues. The article warns that this appointment might be frustrating because many doctors lack training in sleep medicine. Primary-care physicians don’t routinely ask patients about sleep. They also often miss the signs of insomnia, or they suggest ineffective treatments for it, a 2017 study found. Insomnia affects up to 15% of adults and studies show that behavioral therapies work better than medication. Primary-care physicians can identify problems such as iron deficiency, fibromyalgia, celiac disease, encephalitis, plus others.

If none of these causes turn up in the regular clinic, the article recommends seeing a sleep specialist, whose evaluation is likely to include screening for sleep apnea. This disorder, which causes people to periodically stop breathing in their sleep, affects up to 10% of adults. The rates are higher for people who are overweight. About 85% of people who have sleep apnea are undiagnosed and untreated.