GMR Sleep Series: Doctor discusses common sleep disorders

sleep-series

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — All this week, Good Morning Richmond is talking about sleep.

On Thursday we visited The Sleep Disorders Centers of Pulmonary Associates of Richmond.

We met up with Dr. Taruj Ali. He outlined some of the most common sleep disorders people experience.

sleep-series


SLEEP APNEA

Dr. Ali says about 30 percent of men are habitual snorers. Only 8 to 10 percent of women are. He says when you hear the word “snoring” you might think “sleep apnea,” but they aren’t always the same.

That’s what he and his team try to determine with a sleep study.

“Sleep apnea is when the snoring actually gets so bad that you actually have episodes where you stop breathing or your oxygen drops, and that’s when it can have an impact on your overall health,” he said.

Dr. Ali says it’s often the spouse who encourages someone to get tested. At-home tests are also an option for some.


RESTLESS LEG SYNDROME

Do you ever feel like you just can’t sit still or get comfortable when you’re trying to sleep? Those are some of the signs of restless leg syndrome.

Dr. Ali says if restless leg syndrome goes untreated, you can feel tired and sleepy during the day. It also causes issues at night.

“People have this uneasiness or creepy crawly sensation in their legs and an urge to move their legs just to try to get comfortable when they’re trying to go to sleep, and it keeps them from getting a good night’s sleep,” said Dr. Ali.

He says a common cause is a lack of iron, so a sleep doctor might test you for that and recommend iron or magnesium supplements.

In more severe cases, it can be because of a lack of the brain chemical dopamine. Medicine can replace that.


NIGHTMARES

Most of us have had nightmares at one time or another. Dr. Ali says it’s not a major health concern — unless it’s seriously affecting your sleep.

It can be a bigger problem in children because it can lead to night terrors and affect the parents’ sleep.

Dr. Ali says there are certain disorders related to nightmares called parasomnias. These are a bigger problem.

“People actually act out their dreams or they’re doing certain things that might be unusual or violent in their sleep. And in those instances you certainly want to see a physician to get treated,” he said.

Dr. Ali says when adults have nightmares there are often predisposing psychological factors like depression and anxiety.


INSOMNIA

According to Dr. Ali, insomnia is so common it often goes unnoticed.

If you have trouble sleeping, it might be sleep onset, where you can’t fall asleep — or sleep maintenance, where you can’t stay asleep.

“People just can’t turn their brain off. I hear this often — ‘Doc, I just can’t turn my brain off at night.’ So you might be worrying about things.”

He says, more often than not, after testing they find a specific cause for your insomnia that can be treated with medicine or behavior changes.


Friday on Good Morning Richmond, Dr. Ali reveals how much sleep is too little, too much, and just enough.

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