Sometimes we take for granted how vital sleep is to our bodies.
I once had a patient who came to me with multiple different symptoms that had appeared suddenly over the previous six months. She had severe anxiety, aches and pain all over her body, mental fog, and fatigue. She had been sick with a cold almost every month, with a perpetually runny nose. Although she was young, she felt the last few months had been taking their toll. She had blood work done and imaging of her brain and spine. Each had come back to normal. She had gone to physical therapy but couldn't tolerate it.
Her symptoms had appeared after starting a new job. She had been a homemaker for the last few years with three young children and had an opportunity to be a part of a new business.
At first, we discussed if her new job was causing her too much stress, but she enjoyed her new career. In addition, she liked having something for herself.
I asked her, “who is watching her children when you go to work?”
She said, “No one. I watch them. I take them to and from school, but my youngest stays home with me.”
“So when do you work?” I asked.
“I start work when the kids go to bed,” She replied.
“So, when do you sleep?” I said.
“I sleep when the work is done. I usually get to bed around three or three thirty in the morning,” she stated reluctantly.
“Then how much sleep do you get every night?” I already knew the answer.
“Two to three hours a night, if I’m lucky.” She looked at me as if she knew this was the root of her problems.
She had the resemblance of a first-time parent coping with interrupted sleep. She had been living this way for six months. But, unfortunately, her body was breaking down.
“What is a good night’s sleep worth to you?” I asked.
“Everything,” she replied.
Sleep is essential. Between poor sleep habits, time restraints, and chronic medical issues, interrupted sleep affects most Americans in some capacity.
Two to three hours of sleep is an extreme example, but 30-40 percent of American adults sleep less than the minimum recommended sleep amount of seven hours a night. We become chronically sleep-deprived. Interrupted sleep can affect our ability to fall asleep or stay asleep, with over 40 percent of adults having a risk of becoming insomniacs.
Untreated obstructive sleep apnea, chronic pain, benign prostate hyperplasia (enlarged prostate), restless leg syndrome, diabetic peripheral neuropathy, and menopausal hot flashes affect over 100 million Americans combined. Each one of these issues can profoundly affect sleep quality and duration. Not to mention when patients have multiple issues coinciding.
“So, what are we going to do about your sleep?” I asked my patient.
She shrugged as if to say, what can I do?
Eventually, we settled on sleeping four to five hours a night.
Was this a perfect solution? Unfortunately, no. Life rarely offers those, but it was a start.
She asked me how did I sleep at the end of our visit. “I told her better than most but less than I would like.”
If you or anyone you know struggles with sleep, our primary care team and specialists can help.
At HealthyU Clinics, we're here for U. To schedule an appointment, contact us at 602-491-0703 or schedule online here.
By: Alexander Dydyk, DO
Director of Pain Medicine