For most people, sleep is correlated with mental, emotional, and physical relaxation and replenishment. During sleep, the brain and body relax to permit sleep processes to occur. Usually, this physical relaxation includes the muscles of the throat to allow the flow of air into the lungs during sleep. However, some people have a smaller passage, and this can result in snoring and difficulty breathing.
Snoring and other issues that interfere with sleep are of interest to Sleep Psychologists. They want to know more about these problems and how to treat them. Read on to discover more about Sleep Psychologists and how to prevent snoring.
How is Psychology Related To Sleep?
Sleep Psychologists are specifically trained to understand sleep and treat sleep disorders. They have training in healthy sleep, sleep physiology, sleep cycles, sleep management, sleep changes that occur with age, deprivation of sleep, the effects of sleep medications on the brain, evaluations of sleep, and therapies for sleep disorders.
Sleep Psychologists train to use multiple different tests to evaluate and diagnose problems. They also work in a diversity of settings including educational, residential, and private practice, as well as medical and mental health facilities.
What do Sleep Psychologists do?
Sleep Psychologists combine psychological research and science with applied practice to learn and improve sleep. They are concerned with the behavioral, mental, and physiological factors that lead to regular rest and those circumstances that cause sleep problems. They research sleep and sleep disorders, to evaluate the issues and develop further treatments.
Why is Sleep So Relevant?
Sleep is vital for both physical and mental health. While you are sleeping, your body rests and restores. It supports physical health and brain function. Throughout sleep, our brains go on stages and cycles. Each is essential, and we need a certain amount of sleep regularly to keep physical and mental functioning.
Without frequent and adequate sleep, you will have a sleep deficiency. Many body systems can start to fail. Lack of sleep can drive to many problems; a few examples of this include hormonal imbalance, high blood sugar levels, and weakened immune system. Over time, you might become so sleep deprived you have micro-sleeps.
A micro-sleep is when you fall asleep in a briefly and abruptly manner. It can happen anytime, anywhere, even while you are driving. Sleep Psychologists want to stop these sorts of predicaments.
Why Study Sleep Disorders?
These researchers are worried about sleep and sleep disorders for three reasons. First of all, they want to know what might be occurring in the human brain to cause these diseases. Second, they want to see how these conditions may affect mental functioning. Third, they want to learn how to help treat these disorders.
Sleep Psychologists study disorders, snoring included, because of the adverse consequences they can have on people’s both mental and physical health.
Sleep Disorders Researched by Psychologists
Sleep Psychologists study many diverse sleep disorders including insomnia, narcolepsy, sleep cycle disorders, nightmares, sleepwalking, sleep terrors, and bruxism.
They also study disorders that generate snoring and problems with breathing throughout sleep, such as sleep apnea. Actually, sleep apnea is one of the most dynamic fields of sleep analysis. Many vital agencies and funding causes work with Sleep Psychologists to scrutinize sleep apnea. Some of these dysfunctions come in pairs, which are more serious. One good example of that occurrence is with insomnia.
What We Call Insomnia and What is the Treatment for it?
People with insomnia have high difficulty falling asleep. Psychologists are troubled with ensuring people get adequate sleep because it is necessary for healthy functioning. Insomnia is one dysfunction that can negatively affect people’s quantity and quality of sleep. It further combines with issues with snoring or sleep apnea.
Sleep Psychologists frequently use Cognitive Behavioral Therapy approaches to help people with insomnia. These strategies often help people obtain long-term outcomes as they can fall asleep more quickly and stay asleep for longer periods of time.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy assists in two ways. First, it approaches people’s false beliefs and misconceptions about sleep. These can include unreliable expectations that might put too much pressure on you and make it harder to fall asleep. Reducing these thoughts relieves the stress you might put on yourself to fall asleep.
Second, the behavioral elements change how you interact with your bed. The idea is to keep a regular sleep schedule (no napping). Then, only use the bed for sleep (in other words, do not eat, read, or watch television in bed). It is necessary to wait to go to bed until you are exhausted. If you are unable to fall asleep in the next 20 minutes, get up and leave the bed until you feel exhausted.
What is Sleep Apnea Disorder?
Another disorder that can disturb the quality of sleep is sleep apnea. This disease involves impaired breathing. Two factors can disturb normal breathing during sleep. One is when the airway is physically blocked. Another is when a region of the brain that controls breath does not accurately signal the muscles (denominated Central Sleep Apnea).
When breathing is interrupted, the brain will signal the body to restart the process automatically. Often, this can happen outside of conscious perception. However, these stops and causes a physical toll. Usually, people with sleep apnea will endure daytime exhaustion and early morning headaches. In some situations, sleep apnea can cause high blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes. In this way, it can drive to premature death.
Those who experience sleep apnea will usually display snoring (fortunately not every snorer has sleep apnea, but if you do snore and feel exhausted, you may want to be seen for it). The sleep apnea events often related to choking sensations.
Sleep apnea can have a significant impact on mental functioning due to disrupted sleep patterns. Lack of quality sleep causes headaches, sleepiness, lethargy, attention problems, poor judgment, memory loss, and other personality changes, including depression and anxiety. Some individuals may also display symptoms of hyperactivity or automated behaviors.
Sleep apnea can hurt work and school functioning, as well as on relationships. Spouses or significant others may stay awake by the snoring and noises. Coworkers and friends may perceive a change in the person. Sleep Psychologists want to help prevent these adverse effects on mental functions and quality of life.
Diagnosing Sleep Apnea
When you display sleep problems, a doctor may refer you to a specialized sleep center. You might work with neurologists, pulmonologists, and other doctors with specialized training to work with sleep disorders. The doctor may ask you to do a sleep study at home or may ask you to sleep at a sleep facility for an assessment.
Diagnosis of sleep apnea is hard because of the different causes. You may need multiple tests to clarify the problem. At a sleep center, they may connect you to a testing equipment. One of those tests for sleep apnea is polysomnography. This test can record breathing, brain waves, heart rate, and blood oxygen.
Another study is the Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT), which measures how quickly you fall asleep. Patients are given opportunities to fall asleep on the day and the time to sleep is measured. Most people usually take from 10 to 20 minutes to fall asleep (because they are not very tired). People with sleep disorders typically fall asleep in less than five minutes (because they are so sleep deprived).
Treatments for Sleep Apnea
When sleep apnea is diagnosed, multiple treatments may be prescribed, based on the severity of the condition and your situation. It is not advised to use any sleeping medication because those can diminish the body’s natural reflex of waking to start breathing again. Nose strips are not very useful.
The purpose of treatment is to clear the airway and keep it open during sleep. It will prevent sleep apnea episodes. Specific therapies are selected based on the sharpness of the sleep apnea and the person’s conditions (such as medical history). For example, for people with nasal congestion, a decongestant might be prescribed.
Doctors may initially treat sleep apnea with prescribed behavioral changes. It might include also quitting drinking and smoking because these can add up to airway collapse. Sometimes these behavioral changes are sufficient to decrease sleep apnea.
An individual with mild sleep apnea, who is overweight may be asked to lose weight. Investigations have shown that a 10% weight loss can reduce sleep apnea for most patients. For some people, weight loss and sleep positions are not enough to overcome sleep apnea.
Some individuals may need surgery to correct structural problems. Surgery options may include removal of the adenoids, tonsils, nasal polyps, or other masses that should not be in the airway. It could mean correcting other structural disfigurements. These surgeries are usually more helpful for young people. Some surgical procedures will lessen the snoring sounds, but they will not decrease the sleep apnea.
Some patients will benefit from oxygen treatment. However, this does not erase the sleep apnea or prevent some of the other related concerns. Some patients may not react well to this treatment. So, the use of oxygen is still under debate.
Some patients may be asked to desist sleeping on their back. You may be asked to take steps to prevent this. For example, particular cushions can help.
As discussed, some sleep apnea cases occur by an obstruction such as too much relaxation in the throat, tongue, uvula, and palate of the mouth. In some instances, these blockages can be diminished with devices such as the CPAP or EPAP.
What Type of Pillows Help Snoring and Sleep Apnea?
If you are struggling with sleep apnea and your doctor recommends that you avoid sleeping on your back, you can buy an anti-snoring pillow to help. A good cushion will keep you off your back, support side sleep, support the position of your head for optimal airflow, and some of them can even prevent too much relaxation in your throat muscles, which will mitigate the symptoms of sleep apnea.
One good alternative is the Nitetronic goodnite™ Anti-Snoring Pillow. This pillow does more than just assist with your body posture. It also monitors breathing sounds. The cushion can detect any snoring and will inflate/deflate to gently move your head. It will stimulate the throat muscle tissues and reduce snoring. It also interacts with apps through Bluetooth to provide information about your sleep and help lower your snoring.
Another good choice is the Smart Nora Pillow. Some people may enjoy this chance because you can use it with your pillow. It also interacts with the Pebble device to detect snoring sounds. The Smart Nora Pillow then inflates and deflates during the night to change your head position and reduce snoring. One drawback is this pillow needs more equipment to manage when compared to the Nitetronic.
Another good option is u-shaped pillows. These pillows are excellent for people who do not usually sleep on their side. The design helps to keep you in a side sleeping position. The u-shape will give good support to your head and neck while you sleep on your side. The curved area of the pillow helps to lower weight off your shoulders and neck.
Contour pillows are also a good option for people with sleep apnea. These cushions have a wave design that supports the back of the neck while holding the head in place. It limits the head from tilting forward and keeps the airway free from blockage. In general, they support good body position.
How CPAP and EPAP Machines Work for Sleep Apnea?
Some severe cases of sleep apnea need treatment with continuous airway pressure (CPAP). A Nasal CPAP is one uses a mask and pump that work collectively to keep the airway clear. If you use a CPAP machine, CPAP cushions will also be helpful. These help with posture, designed for use along with the CPAP Machines.
The EPAP or Expiratory Positive Airway Pressure is a new technique to reduce snoring and sleep apnea. With this device, the pressure creates while exhaling. This force then stabilizes the upper airway and snoring is diminished with your breathing. Currently, the only FDA-approved EPAP machine is Theravent.
Prognosis of Sleep Apnea
The prognosis varies. For some people, eliminating the obstruction reverses the problem and any related side effects (such as high blood pressure). Some people need ongoing treatment with particular machines. If you fall into this group, you will need to include these into your lifestyle and sleep routine.
If you undergo a sleep problem, such as snoring and sleep apnea, it can be more than an inconvenience. It can hurt your functioning, disturbing your mental and physical health. It can even be serious. Sleep Psychologists study sleep issues, including sleep apnea and snoring. They study ways to diagnose and manage sleep problems, to improve both your quality of sleep and quality of life.
Do not let your sleep issues, such as snoring or sleep apnea, go untreated. If you have one or more of these dysfunctions, visit a Sleep Psychologist and see what they suggest. If they support snoring aids or any other snoring solutions as part of your treatment, you can easily buy those items and build your treatment plan.
Watch a video about Sleep Disorders