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A New Era in Healthy Sleep: Part 3 (Treatment)

By Dr. Joel Bennett, Consultant to Designed Wellness

Because there are so many different types of sleep disorders, it is essential to get professional assistance for proper and differential diagnosis.

Note. This is the final in a series on Healthy Sleep, See these links to Part 1 and Part 2.

Treatment Options (and SUPPORT!)

The later step on the continuum of sleep care is treatment and support. As noted in previous segments, there are a number of ways to get professional help. Because there are so many different types of sleep disorders, it is essential to get professional assistance for proper and differential diagnosis. The most common types of disorders are Insomnia, Sleep Apnea, Restless Leg Syndrome, REM Sleep Behavior Disorder, Narcolepsy, and Sleep Walking. Other related disorders that impact sleep are Bruxism (Teeth Grinding) and Sleep Terrors. Insomnia can often be addressed through primary prevention and early intervention as described in Part 2. For this blog, we will focus briefly on Sleep Apnea and Narcolepsy.

  • Sleep Apnea is a common physiological disorder in which you have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep. It is more common among those who are overweight. A typical treatment for Sleep Apnea is the CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine which includes an adjustable mask and a machine that pushes air into your nasal passages to keep them open. Sometimes Sleep Apnea can be helped with an oral appliance worn during sleep (available from an Orthodontist) used alone or in conjunction with the CPAP. If you use these supports, MAINTENANCE is important. Here are some tips from our sleep champion, Jessica Davenport:
    • Periodically visit your doctor to make sure the machine is still working
    • Over time, with weight loss or gain, it is important to make sure that mask is fitting properly, and the equipment is providing the right pressure of air flow
    • While machines track how you are doing, if you notice if you are having issues (stress, drowsiness, weight gain or loss), don’t put off visiting your doctor
    • Work with the provider and insurance. Most insurance companies only pay every 3 years for a machine. Because proper air flow is critical, you should assertively work with your doctor and provider to get help. Some doctors should be able to provide you a loaner while you wait.
  • Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder that involves poor control of sleep-wake cycles. People with narcolepsy experience periods of excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) and sudden, irresistible bouts of sleep that can strike at any time.  These “sleep attacks” usually last a few seconds to several minutes. The Narcolepsy Network lists three common approaches to treatment:
    • Medications including antidepressants to prevent REM intrusion and Sodium Oxibate to help with sleepiness. Consult with a sleep doctor, who is knowledgeable of the latest research, is important to get the right medications and dosages that may need adjustment over time.
    • LifeStyle Adjustments, which interestingly enough are very similar to the same healthy habits discussed in primary prevention in Part 1 above. In addition, seek support through Support Groups to share issues, coping mechanisms, stories, information and to feel accepted; and Try Tips for Wakefulness, specifically for Narcolepsy.
    • Alternative Therapies including herbal remedies, prayer, meditation, imagery, acupuncture, acupressure, massage, manipulation and related treatments can have positive effects on some disorders or their symptoms.

Last Words and Resources

For people like Jessica, healthy sleep is a lifelong cause. Healthy Sleep is a principle, aim, or movement that, because of a deep commitment, one is prepared to defend or advocate. And, as with most causes, we need to join together to promote awareness, support, and funding for treatment of the many problems that can impact healthy sleep (primary prevention), tools to help those at risk (early intervention), and treatment. Some people may view sleep as a waste of time disrupting their ambitious daytime activities.  Yet sleep is absolutely critical for our health, safety and success.

Here are some resources if you want to join the cause, get support, or give support:

To learn more about Jessica’s advocacy:




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