Chronic Insomnia is a common complaint, and most of us have transient insomnia from time to time. But chronic insomnia robs us of quality of life and job performance. For many years, sleep physicians at the RNI have known that sleep apnea is the real cause of chronic insomnia in most patients, and does not require long term psychiatric drug use or psychological evaluation. In fact, sometimes it’s hard to know what comes first, the chicken or the egg, sleep apnea or depression. Patients with insomnia lasting for more than three months often are often treated with sleep medications, though in most cases these medications do not provide good sleep, and do not prevent insomnia. And all these medications have side effects, some of them serious.
The sleep physicians at the Rowe Neurology Institute have found over the years that many patients who complain of insomnia actually have sleep apnea, and that is why the medications do not help, because sleep apnea is the real cause of chronic insomnia in these patients. In fact, several years ago, when screening patients for a clinical trial on a new medication for insomnia where a sleep study was required to rule out other sleep disorders, the sleep specialists at the RNI could not find ,patients to enroll in the study because all the patients screened had another sleep disorder (sleep apnea or Restless Legs Syndrome, or RLS).
The RNI sleep team presented a research poster on their years of work at the 2013 Sleep Meeting. Their study showed that a high percentage of patients who came to the RNI with the complaint of insomnia had OSA (obstructive sleep apnea) or sleep disordered breathing, determined by a sleep study in our nationally accredited sleep disorders facility.
The conclusion that most patients complaining of chronic insomnia refractory to medications really have Sleep Apnea, that sleep apnea is the real cause of chronic insomnia, has recently been confirmed in an article in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, and described in a YouTube video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vdm1kTFJCK4&feature=youtu.be .
The video discusses a large number of patients seen in a sleep center in Arizona who thought they had chronic insomnia. The investigators found that when they tested these patients in the sleep lab, over 90% actually had sleep apnea. Many of the patients had been on sleep aid medications for years.
People with insomnia have symptoms caused by sleep apnea including frequent urination during the night (nocturia), dry mouth, morning headaches, daytime sleepiness, and snoring. The video explains how sleep apnea causes these symptoms. Unfortunately, both patients and primary care physicians are not aware of the connection of insomnia with breathing problems and often do not ask about these symptoms.
These studies show that both patients and primary care physicians need to be aware that patients with the symptoms of insomnia need evaluation in a certified sleep center like the accredited Sleep Disorders Center at the at the Rowe Neurology Institute.
And remember: Whatever you do, don’t drive drowsy!!!
Click here to view the RNI poster. click here
Click here to see the Mayo Proceedings video click here
See also “Skinny People Can Get Sleep Apnea Too” on our site (and other important sleep articles)