It’s common in this country to look to drugs to treat our problems. This is as much a failing among patients as doctors, although it’s often put on doctors. Ideally, all parties should agree that when drugs aren’t working, a different treatment should be attempted.
One area where drugs often fail is in the treatment of insomnia. Many people who take drugs for insomnia find that they are ineffective. They may help a person fall asleep, but they don’t help them stay asleep.
That’s because many people who talk to their doctors about insomnia actually have sleep apnea. This is especially true of people trying insomnia drugs. In a recent article, about 90% of those who didn’t see results from their insomnia drugs actually had sleep apnea.
Look for the Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
If you have recommended drugs for insomnia but aren’t getting good results, then you should move on to a home sleep test. As noted above, there’s at least a 90% chance that this patient will have sleep apnea. You should also be cognizant of other potential symptoms of sleep apnea to watch out for, such as:
Research has shown that when asked why people woke up, they list many different potential causes, such as:
Being too hot or cold
But when these people are given a sleep test, it turns out that breathing events are the main reason why they are waking up at night. They just aren’t aware of the breathing problems that are causing them to wake up.
Guide Diagnosis and Treatment
Observing the interaction between patients and doctors shows that, in many cases, people try to steer their doctor to the diagnosis they favor. They tell their doctor they have insomnia and that they want something “to help them sleep.” In many cases, they’re not satisfied until they get a prescription for sleep aids.
However, if their problem is really sleep apnea, these sleep aids won’t be helpful. They may actually make the problem worse. Instead, order a sleep test, to confirm or rule out sleep apnea, and see if this is indeed the underlying issue.
Don’t Stick with a Failing Treatment
If you’ve recommended sleep aids and they aren’t helping, don’t stay with it. You may want to give it a reasonable amount of time to allow the patient to adapt, say a few months, but then you should move on to another treatment.
This is also true if you are recommending sleep apnea treatments. CPAP is often the first line of treatment, but it doesn’t work for everyone. If it’s not working for your patient, it’s time to consider an alternative, such as an oral appliance.
Sleep apnea impacts every aspect of your life and your health. When you can’t sleep at night, your brain can’t get refreshed, your heart is stressed, and your metabolism is disrupted. This is a ticking time bomb of potentially deadly consequences.
Sleep apnea can increase your risk of car accidents five times. You may not notice all the signs of heart disease or metabolic disorders, but there are often good clues to show when sleep apnea is affecting your drive. Watching for these signs can help you get treatment before you have a serious accident.
How Did I Get Here?
We understand that your daily commute is probably not really memorable. It’s supposed to be unremarkable. But you should be able to recall at least some details of your trip when you first get out of the car. If you can’t remember your trip at all, it’s a sign that you might be experiencing memory problems and a lack of focus related to sleep apnea.
Where Is Here, Anyway?
Another sign that you’re starting to lose focus is that you find yourself taking wrong turns on your daily drive. You might miss exits, miss a turn, or go to the wrong place altogether.
That’s because you’re losing focus as you drive, so that you’re not even aware where you’re going or what you’re doing until you get there.
I Was Supposed to Do What?
If you’re losing focus and having memory problems during your drive, then it’s easy to just do the same thing every day. You forget when you’re supposed to do something out of the ordinary, like picking up the kids at school, stopping at the grocery store, or meet a friend for coffee. If you start missing these kinds of errands, you should consider whether you’re sleeping properly at night.
Why Is Everybody Honking at Me?
Are you finding that you’re getting honked at more often than in the past. Maybe you miss when it’s your time to go in stop-and-go traffic. Maybe you don’t notice that the light has changed to green. Maybe you are changing lanes inappropriately and cutting people off because your attention has wandered.
In Omaha, most people only use their horns when they have to. If you’re getting honked at a lot more than you used to, it’s time to get checked for sleep apnea.
Have you noticed that you’re having to slam on the brakes more often than you used to, squealing your tires or engaging your ABS more often than in the past? That’s probably a sign that you’re losing focus on the traffic ahead of you, and it’s only a matter of time before you find yourself in a situation where you can’t stop.
Officer, I Didn’t See the Sign
A really dangerous form of inattention is when you start running stop signs or stop lights. Moving into cross traffic can lead to very serious accidents that can cause a lot of property damage and/or injuries.
Worst of all, if you’re really not paying attention, you might not even know that you’re doing this, until somebody honks at you or an officer pulls you over.
If you’re seeing the warning signs that sleep apnea is impacting your driving, now is the time to take steps to save your car, your life, or the lives of others. Sleep apnea treatment can reduce your risk of accidents.
To learn more about how sleep apnea treatment can protect you, please call (402) 493-4175 today for an appointment with a sleep dentist at the Advanced Dental Sleep Treatment Center.
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