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March is National Sleep Awareness Month. This month, most of the country moved the clocks forward for Daylight Saving Time– an event that can often disrupt sleep and impact our work and school days. At times like this, it’s important for us to think about how good sleep — or the lack of it — can have an effect on our lives.

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Why should you care about getting good, quality sleep? Beyond the obvious reasons (feeling refreshed and productive), there are plenty of reasons:

  • Quality, uninterrupted sleep is essential for pediatric growth and development, both for the body (bones, heart and lungs) and the mind.
  • Teenagers need quality sleep to have mental acuity and awareness in the morning. Good sleep also reduces the risk of chronic headaches, depression, or other conditions that arise when teens are sleep-deprived.
  • In adults, poor quality sleep is one  risk factor that can contribute to  cardiac rhythm disorder, hypertension, chronic headaches, alertness problems, mental acuity issues, and attention deficit-like behavior.
  • Impaired sleep can sometimes lead to depression, mental anxiety, impotence in men, hormonal irregularities in women, and more.

In short, no matter what your age, good sleep is important to good health.

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There are many different circumstances that can interrupt or impair sleep. Some of the more common causes we see at Virginia ENT include:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea, or obstruction of airflow in the nose and throat. This can cause snoring and interruption of breathing during the night. This is the most common condition that ENT physicians see and can assist with.
  • Neurologic and musculoskeletal disorders where the brain is not keeping the airway open and moving in the correct manner
  • Some medications can make you sleepy (like Benadryl products) but deprive you of important restorative REM sleep.
  • Sleep disorders of the brain, such as central apnea or central breathing disorders. These are typically suffered by people with cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease, or other diseases.
  • Anxiety in adults and children can also interrupt sleep and prevent getting adequate rest.

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An ENT doctor can help with sleep apnea problems by reducing nasal and oral congestion.

For children with sleep apnea, medication and/or tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy may clear obstruction in the mouth, which in turn can improve sleep.

For adults with sleep apnea, weight loss may be the first recommendation if that’s an issue for the patient. Correcting nasal blockage with deviated septum surgery or removal of the tonsils may be appropriate, depending on a physical exam. Many sleep apnea patients use a CPAP machine to push air through the nose during sleep.

Other, less common techniques may include trimming the palette, moving the tongue forward, or fitting a dental appliance to move the jaw forward.

A good night’s sleep is vital to your mental and physical well-being.

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