Being a mom can be as rewarding as it is difficult. With all the joy comes challenges, such as not getting enough sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 90% of parents believe that sleep is very important in their lives for their own wellbeing and that of their family. But how many moms are getting enough sleep?
During an interview with Moms Everyday, Brent Fisher, president and chief executive ffficer of the Alaska Sleep Clinic, was asked why should moms of all ages be concerned about sleep. Fisher stated that sleep is very important to our lives, not only so we feel less grouchy in the morning, but for our health as well.
“There are also serious issues such as heart disease, pulmonary issues, as well as diabetes,” says Fisher.
Sleep research indicates that women are often undiagnosed for sleep disorders. According to Fisher, “Men are twice as likely to have sleep apnea than women. However, men are often diagnosed with sleep apnea almost 8 times more often than women. That means that women are not being diagnosed. They’re not going in to get those tests done.”
If women are half as likely to have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) as men, but are diagnosed and treated for it only an eighth of the time, something must be wrong. Johns Hopkins Assistant Professor of Medicine Grace W. Pien believes that physicians are simply not properly diagnosing OSA in women.
“Physicians often have a predefined notion of the type of patient who has sleep apnea, like a middle-aged overweight or obese male. Thus they may not think of this diagnosis when the patient is female.”
Dr. Pien shares that the classic symptoms of OSA have been defined by studies with a nearly all-male population. “Women may present (OSA) with fatigue, insomnia, morning headaches, mood disturbances, or other symptoms.” Those symptoms could also include restless legs, depression, lack of energy, and general sleepiness, which are not necessarily specific for OSA.
In defense of physicians, Dr. Anita Blosser MD, family medicine practitioner located in Red Bluff, California, states that there is no easy way to effectively diagnose patients with OSA.
“Keep in mind that we usually have 15 minutes with a patient. Since there is no quick and easy way to tease out the differential, and all of these conditions are more or less vague, we may have to make a decision and offer treatment too soon.”
Dr. Blosser continues, “Many female patients would rather leave my office with a prescription for a pill than with an order for a sleep study.
Sometimes mothers of all ages misdiagnose sleep disorders due to responsibilities with children. According to Jodi A. Mindell, PhD, a professor of psychology at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia and author of Sleep Deprived No More: From Pregnancy to Early Motherhood -- Helping You & Your Baby Sleep Through the Night, many mothers simply underestimate the amount of sleep they need.
Dr. Mindell recognizes that waking up with children at night is a reality of motherhood. Studies show that an estimated 50% of parents with infants are waking up with their children at least once a week, and almost 14% of parents with grade school children are waking up at night. However, Dr. Mindell does not believe that children waking up at night is the only cause for sleep disorders in mothers.
Dr. Mindell says, “A lot of moms see the night as their own quiet time to relax or as a chance to get things done that they couldn't during the day." Instead of going to sleep and getting the rest they need, they try to use the time the children are asleep to get things done.
Instead of sacrificing sleep, try to find new ways throughout the day to be more productive. According to a recent article in Forbes, typically people waste anywhere from 30 minutes to two hours a day. Are there areas in your life that you can make more productive? Examine your schedule and look for areas you can save time. Even a few minutes here and there will add up to help you be more productive.
No matter how productive you are, if you are suffering from a sleep disorder such as OSA, going to bed 30 minutes early won’t provide the relief you need. The best thing you can do to treat your sleep disorders is to visit your local sleep specialist.
If you live in Alaska and would like to consult with sleep professionals about potential OSA or other sleep disorders, please click the link below.