DEAR DR. ROSENBERG: My wife is 33 years old. She sleepwalks several times a week. This has been going on for several years. Isn't this supposed to be a disorder of children? Is there anything I should do?
A: Interestingly, 2 percent of adults sleepwalk. While most were sleepwalkers as children, that does not apply to all. Less than 1 percent of these adult sleepwalkers do it frequently. If they do, as in your wife's case, there may be one of several contributing factors. First of all, is she getting enough sleep? Sleep deprivation can be a leading cause of sleepwalking. Is she under undue stress? This can also contribute to frequent sleepwalking. Finally, does she snore or have to get up in the middle of the night because her legs bother her? Sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome are major contributors to sleepwalking in adults. With appropriate treatment, in most cases the sleepwalking goes away. I would recommend you discuss this matter with your health care professional.
DEAR DR. ROSENBERG: I was diagnosed with clinical depression five years ago. I have had some improvement on anti-depressants, but not what I had hoped for. I am still fatigued, irritable and have little energy. I snore and have been surfing the net about my symptoms and sleep apnea keeps coming up. Is there really a connection?
A: Yes, there is a great overlap between the symptoms of sleep apnea and depression. Both can cause fatigue, low energy, irritability and trouble concentrating. In a study, published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 39 percent of patients referred to a sleep center for sleep apnea were on anti-depressant medications. More importantly, when treated with CPAP, there was a significant improvement in their depression. So whether in some cases sleep apnea is misinterpreted as depression, or it just tends to make it worse, is not known. But with your snoring, I would recommend that you consult with your health care professional.
DEAR DR. ROSENBERG: My daughter, who is 9 years old, is awake all night. I know she would benefit from a sleep study, but she is afraid to sleep away from home in a strange place.
A: Our sleep center has bedrooms set up like a home environment to make the patients feel comfortable. As for children, we allow the parent to sleep in the same room on a fold-out bed. With our highly trained staff and warm atmosphere, outcomes with pediatric patients have been quite positive.
DEAR DR. ROSENBERG: My 48-year-old brother snores and has sleep apnea. He recently had a heart attack and is rather heavy. How does sleep apnea affect the heart?
A: Good question. Sleep apnea, if untreated, is very damaging to the heart. It accelerates atherosclerosis and can seriously impede contraction of the heart muscle and increases the risk of potentially fatal rhythm abnormalities. Most studies now place oxygen, fragmented sleep and decreases in cardiac output associated with sleep apnea as contributing to the inability to control these seizures.
Dr. Rosenberg, board-certified sleep medicine specialist, will answer individual reader questions by incorporating them in future columns. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via mail at the Sleep Disorders Center of Flagstaff, 1110 E. Route 66, Flagstaff, AZ 86004 or at 214-7400.