Signs of a Sleep Disorder

    Ashtin Collins, FNP, and Lorie Hessler, FNP, ACNP nurse practitioners at Deaconess Sleep Center;  Wendy Isaacs, RRT, RPSGT, lead education coordinator, Deaconess Sleep Center
    Excessive snoring…daytime sleepiness…never feeling rested…sound familiar? These are all signs of a sleep disorder. 

    In broad terms, a sleep disorder is a problem with sleeping that affects the duration and quality of your rest nearly every day or night. You may have trouble falling asleep, issues with staying asleep, or with getting the deep/quality sleep that is needed.

    Not sleeping well affects every aspect of our lives—work, school, family, and even our safety. Because the effects of a sleep disorder are so far reaching, we have each seen many lives changed as a result of finally treating sleep problems.

    Below we discuss several types of sleep disorders. If you realize that you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, a conversation with your family doctor is an important next step.

    Obstructive sleep apnea

    Obstructive sleep apnea, often called sleep apnea or OSA, is characterized by shallow breathing, extensive snoring, and interruptions in breathing. OSA is caused by tissues in the neck collapsing or narrowing while sleeping, resulting in the restriction of air flow.

    Someone with OSA may actually “wake up” hundreds of times per night without realizing it.  Because of this, patients with OSA never feel rested. OSA increases risk for heart disease, stroke, dementia, falling asleep at the wheel and other significant health and safety concerns.

    Symptoms of OSA include:
    • Snoring
    • “Gasps” for air throughout the night
    • Tiredness/sleepiness all the time
    • Memory problems
    • Dry mouth and headache upon awakening
    • Multiple trips to the bathroom at night
    • GERD (acid reflux)
    • Inability to fall asleep at night
    OSA is most common in:
    • Men
    • Women after menopause
    • Overweight/obese patients
    • Having a large/thick neck
    • Those over 50, but it can happen in anyone—even kids.
    If you recognize these symptoms and risk factors, talk with your doctor.  Insurance typically covers testing and treatment for OSA and other sleep disorders. Additional details about OSA.  

    Restless leg syndrome

    The next sleep disorder we want to talk about is restless leg syndrome, or RLS.

    RLS is very common (7-10% of Americans), and is more common in women, those over 45, and can run in families. This sleep disorder is characterized by urges to move the legs because of a “creepy crawly” sensation that occurs at rest, and is relieved with movement.

    RLS can significantly disrupt sleep because you can’t fall asleep or stay asleep due to this constant desire to move your legs. RLS has a variety of causes, including some medication side effects, diabetes, low iron, neuropathy and even OSA.

    If you find that you can’t settle down to sleep because you can’t ignore the feeling to move your legs, get up for a walk, etc. talk with your doctor. Again, insurance typically covers testing and treatment for RLS and other sleep disorders. 


    Insomnia is a sleep disorder that can make people like they’re losing their mind, because they’re exhausted, but still can’t fall or stay asleep.

    Here are some important facts about insomnia:
    • 30-50% of Americans experience insomnia during a one year period.
    • Females are at increased risk of insomnia, and it can be related to hormonal fluctuations
    • Those with financial problems or other major life stressors are at a significant risk.
    Occasional insomnia is common, but a true diagnosis of insomnia that needs treatment is when the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep lasts more than 3 months. 

    If you find that you can’t get a full 7-9 hours of sleep in each 24 hour period, talk with your doctor. There are treatments available.

    Note: Sleep aid medications aren’t the first answer. We strongly recommend that patients be tested for a complete diagnosis prior to medication use.

    Sleep disorder diagnosis

    If you have symptoms for any of these sleep disorders, talk with your primary care doctor about a referral to the Deaconess Sleep Center. The first step is an in-office consult with a sleep expert.  After that a sleep study may take place. Sleep studies are usually covered by insurance, are often done in the home, but can also take place in our comfortable, hotel-like sleep center. For more information, visit

    Good sleep habits

    Finally, whether someone has a sleep disorder or not, it is important to develop good habits around sleep.

    Often called “sleep hygiene,” these tips are related to helping your body and mind wind down and prepare for sleeping for a full 7-9 hours.

    In our clinic at the Deaconess Sleep Center, we are seeing more cases of sleep issues related to poor sleep hygiene, particularly screen usage. Using phones/tablets/TVs in the hour or so prior to bedtime can significantly reduce your ability to fall and stay asleep. This is true for both children and adults.  Everyone should prioritize sleep as part of their routine.

    For more information, here’s an article from our colleagues about “How To Get A Good Night’s Sleep”

    For more details about the Deaconess Sleep Center, visit  
    Posted: January 11, 2017 by Kate Reibel

    Tags: apnea, disprder, insomnia, restless leg, sleep, snoring

steven e. todd
could I have a pdf of your article on sleep?
1/17/2017 7:26:21 PM
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