If you've ever had a baby, or taken care of a baby for any length of time, you know that when they start crying, you don't always know what's wrong. Sometimes you try everything you can think of and still they cry. It's frustrating to be unable to diagnose the problem, and even more frustrating when you think you know what's wrong but it just doesn't calm them down.
The same sort of problem can occur no matter how old a person gets. Sure, most people stop the incessant crying, and as they learn to speak they can make specific complaints, but often the diagnosis still ends up wrong, and the problem continues. A common misdiagnosis involves sleep problems, especially sleep apnea.
Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder involving pauses in breathing or periods of very shallow breathing. It is diagnosed with an overnight sleep study. If no sleep study is done, however, a person can live with sleep apnea for some time and experience a wide range of effects that they don't know how to explain. These can be confused with depression, dementia, or many other mental or physical ailments. Sleep apnea can sometimes go on for years before being identified, impacting health in other ways, as well as social and occupational status.
There are other sleep problems that can appear to be something else as well. If a person is suffering from insomnia, they may experience chronic fatigue, moodiness, or other behavioral or cognitive effects. These can appear to be many things if the insomnia isn't recognized. Any time you aren't getting enough sleep, problems can arise.
Once your sleep problems are diagnosed, treatment can be prescribed. For sleep apnea it can be as simple as sleeping on your side to open your airway. There are also surgeries or therapies, including CPAP machines that provide a pressurized flow of oxygen through the night. Insomnia can be as simple a fix as cutting out some caffeine, or it may involve lowering stress or other therapies. If you have any health issues you can't pinpoint, it may be a good idea to get a sleep study. You may fix a lot of problems at once a lot more easily than you expected.
Information on this page is for reference and educational purposes only. For more information about talk to your doctor or primary care provider.