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Sleep, Sleep Disorders & Impact on Health

April 29, 2013 11:29 AM with Dr. Thomas Freedom

The importance of a good night’s sleep can’t be emphasized enough. Sleep deprivation, whether from an erratic schedule or a sleep disorder, can increase your chances of developing a number of severe health problems. Thomas Freedom, MD, neurologist and program director in sleep medicine, will address all your sleep-related questions, from how much you need and the health effects of not getting enough to the signs and symptoms of sleep disorders like insomnia, snoring, sleep apnea, shift worker sleep disorder and more. Submit your early questions today.

Brenna (Moderator) - 11:15 AM:
Welcome! Today’s chat: Sleep, Sleep Disorders and Impact on Health will begin shortly. Please start submitting your questions and Thomas Freedom, MD, will begin answering as soon as we get started. While you are waiting for the chat to begin, feel free to visit the NorthShore Sleep Center page As this is a popular chat, Dr. Freedom may not be able to answer all of your questions in the time allowed. Your understanding is greatly appreciated.

  Ruth (Oak Park, IL) - 11:31 AM:
I sleep about 8 to 9 hours of sleep on weekdays and probably 10 hour on weekends but I always tired. I’m sluggish all day and sort of walking around in a fog. I know that I do snore at night but I’ve been told that it’s not really bad snoring. If I take naps, I still feel the same way. Could this be some sort of sleep disorder? Or am I just someone that needs more sleep?
Dr. Thomas Freedom (NorthShore)
Hi Ruth, Some people require more sleep than average (so called long sleepers), but you may very well have a sleep disorder. I would advise discussing this with you primary care physician; a consultation with a with a sleep specialist could also be of benefit, if your PCP agrees.

  Beth (Chicago) - 11:37 AM:
I’ve done some research and I think I’m suffering from night terrors but most of the stuff I've read online seem to say this is a childhood thing. Can you suffer night terrors as an adult? I wake violently at least a few times a month. Is there something that I can do about it?
Dr. Thomas Freedom (NorthShore)
Hi Beth, It is unusual, but not unheard of, to have night terrors as an adult. These are treatable with certain behavorial techniques and with medications. However, there are a number of other things that can mimic this. A medical evaluation with your primary physician and an evaluation by a sleep specialist is advised.

  Steve (Glenview) - 11:43 AM:
I go to sleep at night around 11 PM and then pretty every night for the last year or so I wake up at 3 AM. I’m tired all day but I can’t seem to sleep beyond 3 AM. I wouldn’t say that I have more stress in my life in the last year than I did before this started. Is it insomina if I'm sleeping part of the night?
Dr. Thomas Freedom (NorthShore)
Hi Steve, Insomnia is difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, early awakening, or unrefreshing sleep. Any one or a combination of these can occur. There also has to be a daytime symptom (sleepiness, fatigue, aches and pains, cognitive or mood problems, ...). Some people require less sleep than others. If you normally require more than 4 hours of sleep, and have some daytime symptom, this is insomnia. Insomnia can be the sign of another medical or emotional problem. However, it can exist without other problems in some people. I would advise speaking with your primary physician. If there are no medical issues, you can deal with the insomnia. There are a number of behavioral techniques that are used to treat insomnia. Medication is the last resort if all else fails. You can try obtaining the book "No More Sleepless Nights" by Dr. Peter Hauri. If still having sleep difficulties, make an appointment with a sleep specialist.

  M. (Evanston) - 11:56 AM:
My partner talks in his sleep and sometimes even sits up with his eyes open and talks. Sometimes what he’s saying even makes sense and I think he might be awake. He’s never started yelling at me or anything but it does wake me up. I’ve asked him to do something about it but he doesn’t seem too interested in fixing something he doesn’t know he’s doing. Is this something that’s easily treatable? He doesn't like taking medication because of "side effects."
Dr. Thomas Freedom (NorthShore)
Hi M, This is probably something called a "parasomnia". These are unusual behaviors associated with sleep (such as sleep walking). They are usually benign, but can sometimes be related to another medical or sleep disorder. There can sometimes be injury if the person leaves the bed or makes any sudden motions. If it is disruptive, your partner should be evaluated medically and possibly see a sleep specialist. If he is resistant, you could consider taking video of the behavior and showing it to him.

  Megan (Highland Park) - 12:05 PM:
I started working nights about 3 or 4 months ago. I’m so tired all the time. Is there a way to adjust to this schedule? Things that I can do?
Dr. Thomas Freedom (NorthShore)
Hi Megan, We have an internal clock that governs our sleep and wake cycles. When we are out of sync with our sleep and wake times, we have sleepiness when awake and difficulty sleeping when they want to. If this is a permament or long-term shift, you can learn to adapt. The clock can be "reset". If possible maintain the same sleep times on work days and days off. Make sure the bedroom is cool quiet, and dark (ear plugs and a sleep mask may be beneficial). You should avoid bright lights for the 3-4 hours prior to bed time (wear blue-blocking sun glasses if needed). Conversely, get light exposure upon awakening and during normal waking hours. Caffeine is acceptable as long as it is not within 8 hours of bedtime. Sometimes a brief nap (15 to 30 minutes) may be of benefit. If the above are not helpful, there are medications that can be of aid. I would see your primary doctor or a sleep specialist if the above techniques do not help.

  Jesmina (Gary, IN) - 12:15 PM:
I feel pretty good on only about 4 hours of sleep a night, which is how much I sleep most of the time. My boyfriend thinks it is unhealthy and wants me to see a doctor. Should I do it even though I'm okay?
Dr. Thomas Freedom (NorthShore)
Hi Jesmina, Most people need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night, but some people fall out of this range. There are people who are "short sleepers". They require less sleep than average. If you awaken refreshed and don't have fatigue, sleepiness, mood or cognitive problems, and are otherwise healthy, you probably only need 4 hours of sleep/night. If you have any of the above problems, then I would advise seeing a doctor.

Brenna (Moderator) - 12:21 PM:
There are 10 minutes left in this chat. Please submit your final questions

  Kinley (Chicago) - 12:23 PM:
I sleepwalk. Not often but I know I do it. I guess it could be happening more often than I’m aware of. It started when I was a kid. My mom sleepwalks too and has never had issues so I've never done anything about my own sleepwalking. What causes it? Is there something I can do to prevent it? Nothing unsafe has ever happened that I know of but can it get worse? Would sleep meds keep me from doing it?
Dr. Thomas Freedom (NorthShore)
Hi Kinley, We have many automatic behavoirs (e.g., we rarely think about walking in the day, it just happens). Usually during sleep, these "patterns" are inhibitted, but in some people (for reasons we don't fully understand) the inhibition is less complete. This can be genetic. Sleep walking is an example of what we term "parasomnias". The majority of these are benign, especailly in someone who has had these most of their life. The real concern is injury. Also, if sleep is disrupted or you are tired in the day, then there may be a problem. One thing that some people use is an alarm (a bed alarm, or alarms near the door and windows) to awaken them prior to potential injury. There are behavioral interventions and medications that can prevent these. The frequency varies. It usually does not increase in frequency unless there is some aggravating factor such as increased stress.

Brenna (Moderator) - 12:33 PM:
Thank you all for your participation. An online transcript will be available shortly. To learn more about NorthShore’s Sleep Center go to

This chat has ended.

Thank you very much for your participation.