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Study Reveals Large Percentage of Insomniacs Have Undetected Sleep Apnea

A newly-released study out of the Sleep and Human Health Institute and Maimonides Sleep Arts & Sciences, Ltd has determined that among a group of 1,210 patients suffering from chronic insomnia, ninety percent were discovered to be suffering from undiagnosed sleep apnea.  It is likely that despite the fact that the patients had been attempting to cure themselves through both over-the-counter and prescription sleep aids for many years, the source of their problem had been the sleep disorder all along.

Insomnia is a problem for millions of people worldwide. Most assume that the drug is caused by some kind of stress or anxiety rather than a physical problem. A burgeoning sleep industry has sprung up around the problem, with people purchasing and downloading sleep apps and special white noise machines and monitoring their own sleep efficiency through a variety of low-tech sleep monitors that can be purchased from retail outlets. Sufferers have attempted to improve their sleep hygiene and sought help from their physicians, who have prescribed stronger and stronger medications, but many of them have reported that none of these solutions have helped.

The researchers decided to try to identify the cause of the failure of these drugs to address the sleep problems of chronic insomniacs by having them undergo sleep studies, and found that the overwhelming majority were suffering from previously undiagnosed sleep apnea.

According to Dr. Barry Krakow in a report published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings,  “We are used to seeing insomnia as a psychological condition, but in these drug-failure cases nearly all patients also suffered from a physical condition, obstructive sleep apnea.” The 1,210 patients who were studied were made up of nearly 900 who were taking a variety of over the counter and prescription sleep aids that were reportedly not providing them with relief.  The patients who were taking the drugs self-reported the symptoms of sleeplessness as being far more severe than those who were not taking medications – it took them longer to fall asleep and they spent more time awake in the middle of the night.  Sleep studies using advanced technology were performed on 942 of those in the study, and of that group a full 91% were shown to have sleep apnea ranging from moderate to severe. The results were true for both men and women.

Victor Ulibarri, senior research investigator, said, “Remarkably, greater than 70% of this patient population reported sleep breathing symptoms like snoring or gasping during sleep and suffered from insomnia for an average of a decade, yet none of these patients had previously been evaluated or referred for sleep testing.” The researchers surmise that physicians may not realize when drug treatments aren’t working, as patients may not report back or they may fail to inquire. As a result, it takes longer for physical problems to be diagnosed.

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