January 16, 2018

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The Dangers of Sleep Deprivation

Driving DrowsyIt’s still dark outside but you awaken to a familiar noise, the beep, beep, beep of your alarm clock. You rub the sleep from your eyes, but feel as if you’ve only slept for a couple of hours. As you get ready for work you long to go back to bed, but you keep moving along; up next, the commute to work. It’s tough to keep your eyes open and they feel like sand paper. You’re startled by a rumble as you realize your car is drifting off the road, so you jerk the wheel to straighten it out. (yawn) Oh if only the drive to work was shorter.

Driving drowsy can be very dangerous! Did you know that studies have shown that sleep deprivation can impair your thinking and motor skills? When you get behind the wheel when you are tired, your driving can be similar to someone who has been drinking with blood alcohol levels above the legal limit. That’s scary!

Sleep deprivation can happen in just one night and can also accumulate over time. As sleep loss accumulates, you might not even notice how tired you really are because your body is working hard to try to make adjustments. Now those normal daily activities like driving a car and operating equipment can become a very dangerous task!

What causes sleep deprivation?

Insufficient overall sleep can cause sleep deprivation. Did you get 6-8 hours of good sleep last night or each night this past week? Or have you been lucky only to get 4-6 hours of sleep each night? Remember that sleep loss accumulates over time.

Does your job require you to work at odd hours or on an irregular schedule? Do you live with a shift worker? Disruptions of the normal circadian rhythm set by your biological clock can cause sleep loss. It may be hard to find a way to sleep during the daytime hours or your deep REM sleep may be interrupted when your shift working partner comes home.

Undiagnosed sleep apnea can also cause problems. Sleep apnea is abnormal pauses in breathing during sleep. Sleep apnea is becoming more of a problem and affects approximately 15% of men and 9% of women. Symptoms can be present and can go undiagnosed for years; as a result, daytime drowsiness and fatigue becomes more of a problem.

What can you do?

Dr. Meghna Mansukhani

Meghna Mansukhani, MD, Family Medicine/Sleep Medicine, ACMC-Willmar

Sleep apnea can be detected in an overnight sleep study test called a polysomnogram. The polysomnogram monitors heart rhythm, brain function, muscle activity, eye movements and other body functions while you sleep. If you are found to have sleep apnea, you will be treated with a positive airway pressure (PAP) machine that will significantly reduce your sleepiness. The treatment of sleep apnea can help to reduce your risk of traffic or other accidents caused by daytime drowsiness as well as other adverse health consequences. If you are still feeling tired despite using a PAP machine, other tests can be done to detect other sleep issues.

If it seemed “like I was talking to you” or a this sounded like one of your friends or family members as you read this article, call me today to get scheduled for a sleep consultation. Sleep apnea and other sleep issues are serious problems that shouldn’t be ignored.


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