Saturday, March 28, 2015

Chronic Fatigue or Chronically Sleepy?

When people say they suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome, I usually have a stock response: prove it to me.

I’m not saying you may not suffer from extreme tiredness, but I don’t see this problem being lumped under one disease category. Undiagnosed viral or thyroid conditions as well as other ailments could account for chronic fatigue – and so could erratic sleep behaviors, according to a new study published by the American Lung Association.

Researchers from Boston University’s School of Medicine say irregular breathing during sleep causes middle-aged and older people to be sleepier during the day.

Even moderately elevated levels of breathing disorders can lead to excessive daytime sleepiness that can cause accidents, impaired social performance and reduced quality of life, says the report published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

"The American public must recognize the importance of adequate sleep to good health and the risks and consequences associated with excessive sleepiness," says Dr. Claude Lenfant, director of the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health, which funded the study.

The long-term project looked at 1,824 adults with an average age of 65 who were hooked up to a machine that measured the number of times breathing became shallow or stopped during sleep. They were also surveyed about how sleepy they felt during the day.

Even the mildest breathing difficulties caused excessive daytime sleepiness, but the more pronounced a person’s breathing disorder, the sleepier they were during the day.

The lead investigator, Daniel J. Gottlieb, M.D., says snoring is one common sign of sleep-disordered breathing that should be brought to the attention of a physician. Drinking excessive alcohol can also increase the severity of sleep breathing patterns, he says.

In its severest form, sleep-disordered breathing could be caused by obstructive sleep apnea, which affects up to four percent of the adult population, says Gottlieb.

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