Ask The Sleep Doctor

Ask The Sleep Doctor: What about 6 Hours of Sleep? Depression and Sleep Apnea? Traveling with CPAP?

Dear Dr. Rosenberg,

I am 42 years old and get about six hours of sleep a night. I rarely feel like I have had a good night’s sleep. I saw on the Internet where poor sleep might lead to Alzheimer’s disease. Is this true?

Answer:

The jury is still out on this issue. However, several well-conducted studies have shown an increase in a substance called beta amyloid in the brain fluids of mice and people with either insufficient sleep or poor quality sleep. Beta amyloid is the building block of the destructive amyloid plaques deposited in the brains of those with Alzheimer’s. This increase in beta amyloid and early plaque formation can predate Alzheimer’s by up to 20 years. I believe that at this point we are seeing a link between poor sleep and Alzheimer’s. Certainly, it is enough to make people realize that the consequences of insufficient and poor quality sleep can be far reaching.

Dear Dr. Rosenberg,

My wife is being treated for depression. Over the last five years she has been on three different antidepressants. However, she feels just as moody and fatigued as ever. Since menopause, she snores and I have seen her stop breathing during sleep. Could that be playing a part in her depression?

Answer:

Great question. We know that the symptoms of depression and sleep apnea are very similar. We also know that fragmented sleep, as results from sleep apnea, can cause depression and anxiety. As a result, it is common for people with sleep apnea to have an incomplete response to treatment of their associated anxiety and depression. Based on your observation of your wife’s sleep habits I would suggest you discuss this with your health care provider. A referral to a sleep center for a sleep study sounds appropriate.

Dear Dr. Rosenberg,

I am going to travel to India and we will be in the air for many hours. I would like to bring my CPAP machine as I have very severe sleep apnea. Any suggestions?

Answer:

Yes, make sure you carry it on as opposed to checking it. It is far less likely to be broken. Find out if you can get a seat near a power source so you can use it on the plane. If not, look into battery packs that can charge your machine up for 8 hours or more. Finally, get a letter from your doctor with a description of the machine’s purpose. In some countries, this can serve to avoid unnecessary problems. By the way, CPAP does not count as carry-on luggage so you can still take your laptop, etc.

Dear Dr. Rosenberg,

I am wondering at what age a baby should be able to fall asleep without having to have his parents rock him. My grandson is 9 months old and cannot fall asleep on his own. As soon as my daughter puts him in the crib, he cries out and can only fall asleep after she rocks him or pushes him back and forth in his stroller.

Answer:

That is a great question. What you are describing is called self-soothing. This developmental skill usually occurs between 3 and 6 months of age. The majority of babies are able to put themselves to sleep by that age. I would not be too concerned at 9 months, but if this continues beyond one year, I would advise your daughter to speak to her pediatrician. At that point, behavioral techniques, which may include gradually withdrawing for longer periods and allowing the child to cry, (graduated extinction), may be necessary. In addition, putting the child into bed when drowsy but not quite asleep is another technique that can work.

 


Robert S. Rosenberg, DO, FCCP, is the medical director of the Sleep Disorders Center of Prescott Valley, Arizona and sleep medicine consultant for Mountain Heart Health Services in Flagstaff, Arizona. Dr. Rosenberg is Board Certified in Sleep Medicine, Pulmonary Medicine, and Internal Medicine. His book Sleep Soundly Every Night, Feel Fantastic Every Day  is a best seller. Dr Rosenberg’s latest book is The Doctor’s Guide to Sleep Solutions for Stress & Anxiety. Visit Dr Rosenberg’s website www.AnswersForSleep.com which offers a wealth of information on sleep topics.

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