Sleep Disorders

WebMD Live Events Transcript

Are you one of the 100 million Americans that has trouble with sleep?

Virgil D. Wooten, MD, is the Director of the Sleep Disorders Center of Greater Cincinatti. With over 25 years of research and clinical experience, Dr. Wooten's work has covered the full range of sleep-related subject matter, from narcolepsy to insomnia and everything in between.

We are a nation of zombies. Approximately 100 million Americans are currently sleep deprived, costing the economy an estimated $100 billion in lost productivity through increases absenses, illness, and, in extreme cases, even death. If you are one of the 40 million Americans with one or more of the 80 known sleep disorders, then finding the right treatment can be... exhausting.

The opinions expressed herein are the guests' alone and have not been reviewed by a WebMD physician. If you have questions about your health, you should consult your personal physician. This event is meant for informational purposes only.

moderator Your guest today is Virgil D. Wooten, MD... and our topic of the afternoon is sleep disorders.
Feel free to ask your questions at any time by typing /ask, followed by your query.
Thanks for joining us today, Dr. Wooten.
Dr. Wooten Thanks for having me.

moderator Well, since I'm the moderator, it is traditional that I grab the first question.... and, if you don't mind, I'd love it if you could begin by describing what it is you do. What's a typical day like for you?
Dr. Wooten I am a full time sleep specialist -- I take care of people with sleepiness, insomnia, and unusual activities during sleep.

moderator Let's put this is perspective for a second -- how many people in the U.S. have sleep disorders?
Dr. Wooten Various estimates on various disorders. Chronic insomnia affects about 10 percent, while sleep apnea affects about 7 percent. Restless legs affects about 4 percent of the population.

abstrack_WebMD What can I do to make my girlfriend stop snoring?
Dr. Wooten Snoring is a symptom of airway obstruction or blockage -- she will need to have this assessed to determine how serious the problem is.

Sometimes it is just nasal allergies, lack of sleep, too much alcohol... More importantly, it needs to be determined if she has sleep apnea.

In addition to snoring loudly, apnea causes oxygen drops in the night, which in turn cause awakenings, increased urination, high blood pressure, morning headaches. The sleep disturbance caused by apnea causes tiredness and sleepiness. We worry the most about auto accidents due to sleepiness.

If she has nasal allergies alone, prescription nasal sprays, antihistamines and decongestants could be the solution, but if she has other symptoms of sleep apnea, a more thorough evaluation at a sleep center might be in order.

joyhope_WebMD How do you get diagnosed with sleep disorders? Not just 'bad sleep' from bad days?
Dr. Wooten There are various sleep disorders.

If you cannot sleep you have insomnia. If you are tired and sleepy despite adequate sleep, you may have sleep apnea, narcolepsy or other medical disorders that cause sleepiness. If you sleepwalk, wet the bed or scream out in your sleep then you have a parasomnia.

All of these various conditions are seen at sleep centers. Perhaps if you could be more specific...?

moderator What does it take for insomnia to be considered a clinical problem, in need of treatment?
Dr. Wooten If a person cannot get to sleep in less than 20 minutes, has multiple or prolonged awakenings or doesn't get enough sleep to feel rested and alert, that is insomnia. However, some people do not get enough sleep because they don't allow it -- that is not insomnia, just inadequate sleep.

smersh_WebMD There was some debate recently, in News of the Weird of all places, about a man who has supposedly been up for 40 years. Is such a thing even possible?
Dr. Wooten I have seen anecdotal reports like this, especially in off-beat publications, but the reality is that absolute insomnia is fatal.

Sometimes we see short sleepers, needing only a few hours of sleep. We also see people with very poor sleep perception some people believe that they get little or no sleep, but do not feel tired or sleepy the next day

When tested, they show normal sleep.

Studies of laboratory animals under total sleep deprivation show that they die. A rare disorder called fatal familial insomnia results as the name implies, in death of those afflicted.