Sleep Apnea & Insomnia.

Sleep Apnea & Insomnia

Insomnia is a common sleep disorder suffered by more than 55 million Americans. People suffering insomnia have trouble falling and staying asleep and as a result wake up feeling tired and groggy, maybe with a headache, as if they hadn’t slept at all.

In a 2005 poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, 38% of Americans say they wake up feeling un-refreshed. 32% say they wake up frequently at night and 21% say they wake up early and cannot get back to sleep.

For many people insomnia is a short-term issue brought on by stress at work or at home; for example a traumatic event such as the death of a loved one or divorce. When insomnia lasts for more than a month it is considered a chronic condition. Chronic insomnia is usually due to some other problem such as:

  • An underlying sleep disorder or other medical condition such as arthritis or cancer
  • The side effect of prescription medication(s)
  • Misuse of prescription medicines, illegal drugs or alcohol

Insomnia Patients with Sleep Apnea

It has been recognized for some time that underlying medical conditions like sleep apnea may be the cause of insomnia. The startling results of a pilot study published in Sleep conducted by prominent sleep doctor Dr. Barry Krakow and three colleagues in December 2012, reveal that link may be stronger than first thought.

The study was run to help answer an intriguing question: what causes an insomniac to wake up at night? There has been a lot of research on the various reasons an insomniac cannot get to sleep but the question of why an insomniac wakes up after finally falling asleep has not been studied the same way.

To look at this question, Dr. Krakow and his colleagues first removed from the study group all the patients that failed screening for sleep apnea. 20 patients that passed screening (in other words, they did not appear to be suffering from sleep apnea based on physical traits or based on their answers to the Epworth Sleepiness Test) were used in the study and the results were startling:

  • 18 of the 20 patients were found to be suffering from sleep disordered breathing that was causing them to wake up after falling asleep
  • 11 of those patients were found to be suffering from obstructive sleep apnea with an average AHI of 14.4 (an AHI of 15 is considered to be moderate sleep apnea)

So if you are an insomniac who wakes during the night you should consider asking your doctor to be tested for sleep apnea. Please also read about the importance of practicing good Sleep Hygiene to minimize symptoms of insomnia.

Sleep Apnea Patients with Insomnia

On the flip side, patients already diagnosed with sleep apnea often report symptoms of insomnia. The initial stages of PAP therapy are often reported as an acute trigger of insomnia as the patient slowly becomes accustomed to sleeping with a mask and pressured air source. During this stage we recommend a natural sleep aid such as Glysonna (link) to assist in initiating and maintaining sleep.