1. What Is Sleep?

    What Is Sleep?

    Although as humans, we spend about one third of our lives sleeping, a majority of us do not know much about sleep. It is widely believed that sleep is an idle state for the body and does not have any physical or mental significance. In fact, the exact opposite has been scientifically proven.

    Many of the complex brain and body level activities happen during sleep. In fact, some activities are more dynamic during sleep and some diseases occur only during sleep and disappear when the patient wakes up! This information is based on recent findings, and medical authorities are further researching the subject.

  2. What Happens During Sleep?

    What Happens During Sleep?

    Sleep does not mean losing consciousness or coma, but it is a special state experienced by humans. It is a time when certain specific activities happen inside the human mind and body.

    When a person is awake, the brain has a certain electrical activity. Normal sleep consists of several stages of sleep. The first and the second phase are where the sleep is light. Then begins the third and fourth stages, known as the deep sleep phases. These two phases are important for the body to restore its activity, and the lack of these two phases of sleep results in fatigue and stress during the day. After about ninety minutes, the dreams phase begins. This is known as the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage. Dreams occur during this stage and it is an important phase to restore the activity of the mind. Going through all these stages of sleep once implies the completion of one sleep cycle. During normal human sleep (of 6-8 hours) a person passes through 4-6 such sleep cycles.

  3. How many hours of sleep does a normal person require?

    How many hours of sleep does a normal person require?

    Number of hours of sleep needed by a person varies greatly from one person to another. However, we are not sure if the number of hours of sleep needed by the same person remains constant because one might sleep for different number of hours daily.

    Most people recommend eight hours of sleep per day. However, if we want a more accurate number, we need to consider an average of the number of hours for which most people sleep, this comes to 7-7.5 hours a day.

    This does not necessarily mean that everyone needs to sleep for that many hours. Sleeping varies from less than three hours for some people to more than 10 hours for others. A study conducted at the National Center for Health Statistics in the United States of America found that:

    • 2/ 10 people sleep lesser than 6 hours a day - called short sleep people
    • 1/ 10 people sleep more than 9 hours a day - called long sleep people

    Napoleon and Edison were known to have a very short sleep, while Aenictin was known for his long sleeping hours!

    The exact number of hours of sleeping required is not known, but it does influence the productivity and creativity of an individual. Many people think that they need eight hours of sleep a day, and believe that if the same is increased, they will become healthier. This is wrong. For example, if you sleep for only five hours at night but feel active the next day and do not suffer from problems then it is an ideal duration of sleep for you.

  4. What Are Sleep Disorders? What are its Causes, Symptoms, And Treatments?

    What Are Sleep Disorders? What are its Causes, Symptoms, And Treatments?

    Sleep disorders are organic, psychological, or behavioral problems that affect the sleeper. These disorders affect other physical processes, but the complications finally affect sleep. An international classification of sleep disorders separates each of these conditions so that a specialist can recognize and then treat them appropriately.

  5. Falling From A Height

    During the sleep, I feel that I am falling from a height. This results in me, waking up. What could be the problem?

    This is a well-known phenomenon that affect 60-70% of the people of various ages (both sexes), on several times. It is a normal occurrence and does not affect sleep. This situation develops when a person becomes tired or tense, or has been consuming large quantities of stimulants. Generally, this condition does not require treatment, but if it appears frequently and affects sleep, and then one should visit a doctor and undergo a sleep examination to identify the reasons.

  6. Is there a difference between women and man sleeping?

    Is there a difference between women and man sleeping?

    Several aspects distinguish a women’s sleeping habits from that of a man.

    Women sleep for lesser hours. The average number of hours of sleep in women aged 30-60 years is less than 7 hours a day. This is due to various factors.

    • Certain physiological stages such as the monthly periods, pregnancy, menopause, and the changing levels of hormones in the body affect the quality of sleep in women.
    • Women also have a special role in the family, for bringing up children and other work outside home. This directly affects their sleep.
    • Lack of sleep at night significantly affects women during the daytime.

    Understanding the importance of the above-mentioned factors can help women get adequate sleep.

    Insomnia is a very common problem as well. Research has shown that 30% of people may suffer from difficulties in sleep. This problem affects more women than men and more older people than younger ones.

  7. Snoring

    I am 30 years old and suffer from snoring. A underwent a test which says that the situation is in the primary stage (20 degrees). I live in a joint family in Yamen and I feel embarrassed when people complain about my snoring. I have read many theoretical solutions for this but nothing works. I hope you can help me find an effective and long-term solution. Are there some drops you can prescribe? Please advice.

    Snoring has many causes. If the condition is not accompanied by symptoms such as intermittent sleep, choking, or daytime drowsiness and if you are able to sleep for enough hours, it is most likely a case of primary snoring. The causes for this could be problems such as allergies, which can be treated by sprays, and surgeries. However, if snoring is accompanied with the above-mentioned symptoms, you should visit a specialist for sleep disorders.

  8. Obesity And Sleep

    Does obesity lead to snoring or increase in snoring?

    Gaining weight is one of the primary reasons for snoring, apnea, and many other organic diseases. In addition to the genetic factors, which play an essential role, obesity becomes one of the most important factors in increasing the shortness of the upper airway - the reason for snoring. It is proven that weight loss leads to a significant improvement in patients suffering from snoring or sleep apnea.

  9. Apnea For Women When Asleep

    My question is about sleep apnea in women. In your report “Sleep In Health And Disease”, you have highlighted the effects and complications arising due to the interruption of breathing during sleep. You have also mentioned that there are chances of tachycardia, angina, heart attack, stroke, and even a likelihood of death within 5 years of diagnosis. Do these risks go away with treatment? I suffer these symptoms since about 3 month.

    Research suggests that treatment of the respiratory system reduces these risks to a certain level. Please note that apnea does not cause death within five years. However, studies have proved that rate of death among patients with Dyspnea was higher than that of non-infected patients, when followed for up to five years.

  10. Sleep And Aging

    Sleep And Aging

    As children grow, their sleep patterns and sleep requirements gradually change (see the information about Sleep In Children). When one attains puberty (about twenty years of age), the number of hours of sleep needed by the body does not change, it is actually the nature and the quality of sleep that changes.

    Elders get little sleep, and it gradually becomes less effective and less comfortable. This is because the proportion of each stage of sleep varies (see information of Sleep In The Elderly). When a man reaches 50 years of age (60 years for women), the proportion of deep sleep (stages 3 and 4) steadily reduces has reaches very small amounts and might eventually disappear. In this age, unlike youth, elders wake up easily because of external noise. Hence, while the number of hours of sleep might be same, the nature of sleep is different. It is light and intermittent, causing drowsiness and increase in naps during the day.

  11. What Is Snoring?

    What is snoring and how common is it?

    When we sleep, the muscles relax. This includes the upper airway muscles that help keep the airway open and facilitate the movement of air from and to the lungs. For most people, this relaxation of the upper airway muscles does not usually affect the capacity of the airway. However, for a certain group of people the airway is narrow. This could be due to various reasons like inflation of the soft tissue in the throat, defects in the nose, birth defects like small jaws, or the length of the tongue. The snoring sound is caused by the vibration of the soft tissues in the throat.

    Common snoring disorders affect 10-30% of adults and the percentage rises to 40-60% in the elderly, which is more in males and overweight individuals.

  12. Sleep Apnea With Snoring

    Are all patients suffering from snoring infected with Dyspnea? What are the complications of snoring?

    I want to emphasize that snoring, in most cases of Dyspneais caused due to the partial blockage of the airway and affects the stability of sleep and might cause a lack of oxygen in the blood. This is known as initial or normal snoring. This problem may be more social than medical. It is not approved conclusively that it affects health.

    However, in a few cases (up to 4% of middle to higher age individuals), the patient might suffer from Dyspnea due to the complete or partial obstruction of the upper airway. In case of complete blockage, the snoring disappears, and starts again when breathing commences with deep inhalation. If this happens, the patient is seriously suffering with airway obstruction during sleep.

  13. Symptoms And Complications Of Sleep Apnea

    What are the symptoms and complications of sleep apnea?

    Snoring is the most important symptoms of respiratory failure due to obstruction of the upper airway. The patients with airway obstruction during sleep usually complain of symptoms like increasing drowsiness and lethargy during the day, suffocation (choking) and an increased need to urinate during the night. Therefore, neither does snoring alone mean Dyspnea nor it is a serious illnesses.

    Apnea due to obstruction of the airway is a serious problem if not treated correctly, and can lead to critical organic diseases. In a recent study conducted at the King Khalid University Hospital, it has been proved that sleep apnea is a major cause of high blood pressure. 50-60% of the patients were admitted to cardiac care for acute ischemia of the heart. These patients were found to be suffering with interruption or failure of breathing during sleep.

    If not treated appropriately and in time, the condition could lead to improper heart rates, angina, heart attack, stroke, and pulmonary arterial high blood pressure. Recently it has also been proven that sleep apnea lowers the body’s resistance to insulin, hence increasing the risk of diabetes.

  14. Does The Patient Of Snoring Suffer Dyspnea During Sleep?

    How to diagnose that the patient snores during sleep?

    In order to diagnose sleep illnesses, the doctor has to collect extensive habitual, behavioral, and medical information about the patient. The patient’s relatives and caretakers can also help describe the condition.

    If the doctor suspects Dyspnea, he might conduct a study of the night sleep by studying the patient’s organic functions like breathing, oxygen level in the blood, ECG, and even monitor brain signals throughout the night.

  15. Snoring and Sleep Apnea

    It is believed that snoring and apnea are addressed the same way through surgery. How can these be treated?

    For the purpose of treatment, we shall differentiate the conditions into harmless/ initial snoring and apnea. Based on the medical history, clinical examination, and the results of sleep study, individual treatments are given to each patient. It is always preferred to make a treatment plan with consultation of an ear-nose physician and the sleep specialist.

    • Initial Snoring:

    There are several ways to treat snoring. One is surgical, where operations vary from simple procedures under general anesthesia to modern surgical methods such as laser or heat waves in a single or multiple sessions at a clinic (without the need for general anesthesia).

    Such methods are effective only if you choose the appropriate surgical intervention for the specific patient. Other method of treatment that has proved to be effective, is the dental prosthesis - for patients who have a smaller lower jaw and need external or internal extenders.

    • Patients with apnea during sleep:

    Fortunately, there is an effective treatment for this disease, which helps restore normalcy, and avoid complications. It is called Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), used during sleep. This treatment is the primary treatment for people with obstructive Dyspnea during sleep. As per the recommendations of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, CPAP is considered the first line of treatment for moderate to severe cases. The surgeon chooses the appropriate type of surgical intervention for each patient based on the results of clinical examinations and sometimes the results of a scan of the upper airway too.

    It should however be noted that it is scientifically proven that surgery may ONLY REDUCE snoring, but might not solve the problem of blockage of the airway. Therefore, all patients should be subjected to sleep study after several weeks of the operation to ensure safe and effective breathing during sleep. For children suffering with this condition, surgical operations are the primary treatment.

  16. Numbness Of Hands Or Fingers

    I feel numbness in my hands and my fingers every day. Sometimes I feel it only on one hand. I make sure I do not exert pressure on my hands while sleeping. What can I do? Please advice.

    Hand numbness during sleep may be the result of pressure on the carpal tunnel ligament nerves that pass beneath it. This problem affects pregnant women or those having improper functioning of the thyroid glands or some other causes. Therefore, I advise you to visit a neurologist to assess the situation.

  17. Increased Sleepiness

    I am 40 years old and enjoy good physical and mental health but I feel sleepy during activities like meetings, lectures, and even while driving. I am unable to sleep at a stretch because I wake up three times every night to use the bathroom. Please suggest a solution. I suffer from chronic idiopathic inflammation also.

    Increasing of drowsiness has many causes. The most important reason for the increasing drowsiness during the day is the lack of sleep during the night while a person’s lifestyle and other habits are the behavioral causes for lack of sleep. The organic causes include lack of thyroid. This leads to conditions like snoring, sleep apnea, disease spells, drowsiness and impairment of the body’s biological clock. I suggest that you should visit a specialist for sleep study.

    The treatment will include monitoring of various physiological functions such as the brain waves, muscle movements, breathing through the mouth and nose, snoring, heart rates, etc. Moreover, other functions such as the movements of the legs, movements of the chest and diaphragm, the rate of oxygen in the blood and the rate of expulsion of carbon dioxide from the body also need to be studied.

    In order to measure these parameters, we affix metal discs on the patients head and the chest using an adhesives and flexible rubber bands around the abdomen (to monitor the breathing). A small plastic tube is also fixed near the mouth and the nose for monitoring breathing, while the oxygen level is measured using a clip on the fingers.

  18. Night Leg Cramps

    Sometimes I experience painful cramps in my right foot while the left is normal. I have to jump out of bed and pull my feet towards the abdomen. I try to gently massage my feet and change their position, but this does not help. Please help.

    Nocturnal Leg Cramps is a well-known problem. It affects pregnant women and the elderly, but is also common among children and young people. Cramps usually occur in the calf muscles or the heel bone tissues, and last from seconds to minutes. The pain disappears when you pull the foot back.

  19. Eating While Sleeping

    I suffer from eating too much during sleep, causing an increase in weight. I am also not able to sleep properly. Please advice.

    Nocturnal Eating Syndrome is a disease known to affect about 4% of the population and is higher among women. It is usually accompanied by sleep disorders and an increase in weight. Although it might not be possible to resist the desire to eat, some medicines can be prescribed. The patient has to undergo treatments for sleep disorders under a specialist.

  20. Sleeping During The Day

    Does sleeping during the day cause diseases?

    Naturally, it is better to sleep at night than sleep during the day (Night is made for sleeping, and the day for subsistence). However, sometimes one might have to change their biological clocks to be able to sleep during the day. For example, people who have to work at night need to sleep during the day. However, such people end up sleeping for two to four hours lesser than those who work during the day and sleep at night.

    There is a significant difference between the quality of sleep during the day as compared to that of the night. Sleeping during the day is usually mild (one might not be able to get deep sleep) and intermittent, resulting in a failure to restore the body to its normal state. This makes one feels fatigue, lethargic, tensed, and sometimes sleepless. This eventually affects their productivity and concentration at work.

    Other issues facing late night workers are related to the secretions of acids in the digestive system. When one eats late at night, it disrupts the bodily rhythms because this eating is only to fill the stomach at a time when the digestive system is at rest and hence not ready to process the food. However, during the day, the digestive system is at the top of its activity like acid secretion and hence people who eat late in the night complain of acidity in the morning.

    Hence, if a person is able to create a night-like environment during the day (by reducing light) and is able to get adequate hours of sleep, it might not affect their health. However, majority of us cannot afford to do so - hence we end up sleeping intermittently during the day.