Healthwatch: Getting A Good Night's Sleep

For too many people, a good night's sleep seems like only a dream. That's because 70 million Americans are affected by some kind of sleep disorder.

All basically fit in one of two categories: disorders that prevent sleep and those that cause excessive sleepiness.

The most common type is insomnia. Officials at the H.C. Watkins Sleep Center in Meridian say this often has some common causes.

"A lot of folks drink too much caffeine. They don't have a regular sleep schedule," said Dr. Kary Whitehead.

Affecting both adults and children, Whitehead says sleep disorders can contribute to major health problems such as heart disease, hypertension and diabetes.

"Once that's treated, those difficult to control health issues become easier to manage," Whitehead said.

Although not being able to sleep is the most widespread sleep disorder, Dr. Whitehead says excessive sleepiness can often be even more dangerous.

"Someone who falls asleep at inappropriate times, such as at the computer, at the desk, or even more worrisome is falling asleep while you're driving," he said.

When it comes to the various types of sleep apnea or excessive sleepiness, Whitehead says help is available and it often includes an overnight stay at a sleep center.

As part of this stay, the patient's sleeping pattern is monitored and often includes the use of masks to open the airwaves to help the person breath better and sleep easier.

"This is not a problem that develops overnight," said Whitehead. "It's something that develops over years and once you treat them it's like somebody flipped the switch on, they feel so much better."

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