Are You Just Sleepy or is it a Sleep Disorder?
Sleep disorders can have serious effects on your health. Here’s how to tell if you may need a sleep evaluation, or sleep study.
If you wake up tired every morning, are sleepy or irritable all day and can’t get to sleep at night, you may have a sleep disorder.
You may not realize that there’s a big difference between feeling “tired” and “sleepy.” When you’re tired, you lack energy, have trouble focusing and feel “out of it” a lot of the time. You’re sleepy if you’re yawning, nodding off and can’t keep your eyes open.
How you feel during the day is a key piece of information for doctors because different sleep disorders have different symptoms. Insomnia patients are constantly tired but rarely feel the urge to sleep during the day. Sleep apnea and narcolepsy patients are tired too, but they are constantly fighting off sleep.
The clearer you are in describing your symptoms, the quicker your doctor can get you the help you need. Insomnia isn’t immediately life threatening, but sleep apnea, which often goes undiagnosed for years, can be, because it raises the risk of heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure.
You may have a sleep disorder if you:
- Snore loudly
- Gasp or choke while sleeping
- Feel sleepy or doze off while watching TV, reading or driving
- Have difficulty sleeping three nights a week or more
- Feel unpleasant tingling or nervousness in your legs when trying to sleep
- Wake up with a headache
If you have any of these symptoms, talk to your doctor. He or she can refer you to the Sleep Evaluation Center for an overnight sleep study. The sleep study will provide your physician with information about how you breathe and sleep. This will help your physician identify the type and severity of your sleep disorder and can also help to determine your treatment options.
Could you have a sleep disorder? Take this quiz.
Doctors use the Epworth Sleepiness Scale to gauge your level of sleepiness and decide if you need a sleep evaluation — particularly to spot potential sleep apnea or narcolepsy.
STEP 1 Consider these eight scenarios:
- Sitting and reading
- Watching TV
- Sitting inactive in a public place
- Being a passenger in a motor vehicle for an hour or more
- Lying down in the afternoon
- Sitting and talking to someone
- Sitting quietly after lunch (no alcohol)
- Stopping for a few minutes in traffic while driving
STEP 2 Rate your chance of dozing off in each scenario, on a scale of zero to three:
0 = Would never doze or sleep
1 = Slight chance of dozing or sleeping
2 = Moderate chance of dozing or sleeping
3 = High chance of dozing or sleeping
STEP 3 Add all eight numbers together:
The total of these numbers is your Epworth score.
- Less than 10 is considered normal.
- 10 or higher means you probably have a sleep disorder.
- 15 or higher means you have excessive daytime sleepiness. You should see a doctor as soon as possible.
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