Sleep - the Body’s Natural Reboot?

October 31, 2018

When your computer is sluggish, webpages will not open and pathways are blocked to sites you need to visit the easiest solution is a reboot of the computer. The reboot unloads the device drivers, closes all programs and restarts the operating system. John Keeley, a clinical education specialist at the Shore Sleep Center compared our body to the computer and said a proper night’s sleep is in a very real sense, a reboot for our bodies.

“When our bodies enter that deeper, third stage of sleep spinal fluid is released and cleans the protein in our brain that has accumulated throughout the day,” said Keeley. That protein that builds up in the brain, left undiagnosed and untreated has been linked to dementia. He described the four levels of sleep as Stage 1- a person is half asleep and dozes off but can hear some of what is going on around them. Stage 2- A somewhat deeper sleep, a person will awake if someone calls them by name. Stage 3- A deeper and longer sleep is where the body restores itself and where all kinds of self-healing occurs while the body is at rest. Stage 4- the deepest sleep is where REM or rapid eye movement occurs. It is in this phase where we dream and where the body wraps up what has occurred during the day or encapsulates recent thoughts into one or several neat little packages.

Keeley explained that more and more, healthcare professionals are pointing to restorative sleep, that rebooting of our bodies inner computer as a key to a patients overall health. The flip side of that equation is that sleep disorders and poor sleep habits are linked to several health conditions including diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disorders, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Sometimes being tired is a signal that something else may be going on. Patients will go to their primary care physician and complain that they are always tired. “Some people are just always tired and they are not really sure why. If you are going to bed at night and getting what you believe to be a solid eight hours sleep but yet you are still constantly feeling fatigued the physician may decide that it is wise to get to the root of that fatigue and order a sleep study.

One of the most common sleep disorders that people suffer from is obstructive sleep apnea. As Keeley explained, sleep apnea is not just about someone snoring loudly, though snoring is one of the symptoms. It is about people who are snoring, whose airway may be partially obstructed by their adenoids or tonsils and who will stop breathing multiple times over the course of a night. Central sleep apnea is a condition where the brain will intermittently forget to tell the body to breathe and causes the person to gasp and wake up. 

What does waking up during the night have to do with other health problems like hypertension? A great deal according to Keeley. He explained that for those patients that are snoring loudly because their airway is partially blocked never have the opportunity to go into a deep sleep. They will fall asleep but will continue to wake up throughout the night, most times they have no knowledge of waking up. But when they do, their body sends out a tiny burst of adrenaline at each of those awakenings. Keeley said those little bursts exert pressure on the blood vessels and over time can create a thickening of the walls of the blood vessels that leads to hypertension. For people already diagnosed with other comorbidities such as COPD, cardiovascular disease, or neuromuscular disease, it is really important to diagnose any possible sleep disorder that will allow the patient to get that good night’s restorative sleep so their internal computer will have a chance to reboot itself. 

Sleep studies can determine what type of sleep disorder a person has and the best approach to alleviate their problem. Keeley explained that sleep studies done in a sleep center are able to detect up to 80 sleep disorders including breathing disorders like apnea, restless leg syndrome and circadian rhythm disorders. Hope sleep studies can detect up to 10 sleep disorders.

Who is the typical patient in a sleep study? Just about anyone according to Keeley. Symptoms for sleep disorders include feeling tired even after a full night’s sleep, falling asleep at inappropriate times like driving or watching TV, snoring, frequent headaches, waking up with a choking or gagging sensation, pauses in breathing while sleeping and the inability to sleep. Children who are experiencing disrupted or restless sleep, snoring with intermittent pauses, gasps or snorts, mood swings, daytime hyperactivity, persistent bed wetting and below normal weight and growth. Pregnant women can suffer their own type of sleep disorders with frequent nighttime awakenings, snoring that is getting progressively worse and gasping for air.

For more information on the Shore Medical Center Sleep Center that is accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine click here.