Sleep Disorders: News and Treatments

/ May 31st, 2011/ Posted in Health News / No Comments »

Asheville Dr. offers natural treatments for weight, fatigue

Dr. Nikolas Hedberg usually draws a crowd when he speaks around Asheville.

With topics such as chronic fatigue, arthritis, fibromyalgia and painful ailments that are not usually well understood, the chiropractor’s talks are always popular.

But even these can’t compare with his talks on thyroid disorders. Those are always standing-room-only.

“I’ve been giving talks all over Asheville the past six years, and every time I did one on thyroid, it was a packed house,” said Hedberg, DC, DABCI.

“Everyone was on thyroid medication, but still they weren’t feeling any better, they weren’t losing weight, they had cold hands and feet, their hair was falling out, they had sleep problems.”

It isn’t just something that caught Hedberg’s attention. Today, an estimated 28 million people — or one in 10 — in the United States are living with a thyroid disorder. Many of them, Hedberg said, are women, and most don’t know they have it.

“Thyroid disorder is an epidemic in this country,” he said. “The fifth most prescribed drug in the U.S. is thyroid medicine, specifically Synthroid.”

Considering the importance of the thyroid — a small gland located about halfway down the front of the neck — Hedberg felt he needed to take action beyond his private practice. So he wrote a book.

His self-published “The Thyroid Alternative: Renew your Thyroid Naturally” has just been released.

“I wanted to write a book about thyroid disorder and help people understand it. One person’s problem is not the same as another’s,” he said.
Little gland, big job

The thyroid produces thyroid hormone and calcitonin. Its main role, Hedberg said, is to control metabolism, or energy production.

“It is important for fat burning, sugar burning, to make energy for everything in your body to function — your brain, heart, liver — everything.”

The most common form of thyroid disorder is known as Hashimoto’s disease, also called hypothyroidism, which is low or underactive thyroid function.

It can produce symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain or inability to lose weight, constipation, depression, sensitivity to cold, slow wound healing, unrefreshing sleep, hair falling out, and others (see box).

Sleep Disorders

Sleep disorders can affect your ability to achieve and maintain restful nighttime sleep and can also cause excessive daytime sleepiness. Disorders associated with the daytime sleepiness may seriously interfere with daytime productivity or quality of life.

If you are having trouble sleeping, specialized diagnosis and treatment may be required. That’s why Springhill Medical Center offers state-of-the-art sleep testing and evaluation by experienced sleep disorder specialists to identify individual problems and help patients regain restful sleep.

Sleep disorders fall into four major categories. The first, excessive sleepiness during the day, can be caused by a few things. One of them is sleep apnea or repeated cessation of breathing during sleep. It can occur hundreds of times, and may be associated with snoring, daytime sleepiness, high blood pressure, personality changes and impotence.

Narcolepsy is a disease of the central nervous system. It is characterized by “sleep attacks” at inappropriate times. Narcolepsy may also involve episodes of muscle weakness and dream-like experiences while awake.

Nocturnal Myoclonus involves involuntary twitches of the limbs during sleep causing multiple arousals and subsequent daytime sleepiness.

Insomnia is an inability to initiate sleep. It can result from numerous factors including poor sleep hygiene, emotional difficulties/stress, use of certain medications, breathing difficulties or other medical problems.
Disturbances of the sleep/wake schedule include jet lag, frequently changing work schedules and disorders of the sleep/wake rhythm.

Parasomnias are unusual sleep-related behaviors and can include nightmares, bed wetting, sleep walking and kicking, thrashing and hitting.

Because most sleep/wake problems are hidden by sleep, a nighttime sleep study in the laboratory is often required. This non-invasive nighttime study involves the continuous monitoring of the EEG, EKG, eye movements, muscle tension, respiratory activity and blood oxygen saturation.

Michael Ledet, MD is a sleep specialist at Springhill Medical Center. He is Board Certified in Family Medicine, Lipidology, and Sleep Medicine. He is available to see patients at two office locations:

Daphne office:
28260 Hwy 98 Suite B
Hours: Monday (morning), Tuesday (all day), & Thursday (morning)

The ‘first step’ after diagnosis

New and recently diagnosed Parkinson’s Disease (PD) patients, their families, carers and even aged care staff who look after them, will now be able to access a free information seminar and have the degenerative illness explained.

The recently launched First Steps program, run by Parkinson’s NSW and the Brain and Mind Research Institute (BMRI), will help PD patients understand what has, what is and what will happen to their body.

Neurologist at the University of Sydney’s BMRI and Mind Research Institute, Dr Simon Lewis, said that the program- a state first- will also enable PD patients to deal with the shock of diagnosis and learn how to cope with the disease.

“It’s about getting those people who are just shell shocked with the diagnosis,” Dr Lewis said.

“They’ve just had life changing news, they have 101 questions and they don’t realise what they have. Two weeks later, it hits them.”

The seminar will also explain some of the early warning signs of PD, such as mood change, loss of smell, constipation and sleep disorders.

“The most dramatic of its symptoms, however is known as Rapid Eye Movement Sleep Behaviour Disorder (RBD). Parkinson patients have been known to start acting out in their dreams, often punching or kicking the person sharing their bed…during one of the phases of sleep – Rapid Eye Movement (REM).

“The way the brain is wired you are not allowed to move during REM. There’s a dead man’s break between the connection of dreaming and moving your arms and legs.

“[If you are at risk of developing PD], that dead man’s break breaks down.

“For some Parkinson patients it comes as a revelation and relief, not to mention their spouses, that the condition may be responsible for things that go ‘bump’ ‘kick’ in the night.

“…What you see [in the seminar] is this look of realisation on the people’s faces- maybe because the husband has punched [his wife] in the middle of the night. Of course the husband may not know as [she finds it] too embarrassing to tell him.

“And now here they are five years down the line. It’s an amazing thing as they may have been hiding this fact and have been feeling guilty about it.

“Through the seminar, we can say, ‘Hey this is part of your disease and understanding the symptoms is part of getting your head around your own condition’.”

Dr Lewis explained that PD patients, families and aged care staff who attend the seminars will also receive information about treatment (including medication which could switch off violent night-time behaviours) and support.

The next seminar will be held in Sydney on Monday June 20th at 1.30pm at the BMRI and will feature talks from local Parkinson’s experts. However, Dr Lewis said that his team aim to run the First Steps program in rural settings throughout NSW, and hopes that it gets picked up and offered throughout the whole country.

Dr Lewis said that BMRI also aims to conduct specific research into predicting the development of PD in people with RBD.

“We believe the disease spreads slowly through the brain and non-physical symptoms can often predate the disease by many years, potentially offering an early way of recognising the condition.”

Problems with thinking and memory are also common in Parkinson’s diseases with patients being six times more likely to be diagnosed with dementia.

BMRI researchers are therefore also investigating the causes of PD and are trialling memory training.

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