Dr. Alex Lechin On Sleep Disorders & Sleep Medicine
Do you find yourself tossing and turning at night, unable to get to sleep even though you’re tired?
Or do you find yourself waking up in the middle of the night and lying in bed for hours, unable to fall back to sleep? If so, you are not alone, as insomnia affects 30% of Americans at any given time.
Insomnia is an all too common problem that, when left untreated, can cause debilitating side effects that can impact one’s overall energy, mood, and ability to function throughout the day. According to a recent Gallup survey, an estimated 70% of Americans will suffer from some form of insomnia in their lifetime. Dr. Alex Lechin — President of the Texas Institute of Chest & Sleep Disorders based in Houston, claims the average adult needs approximately eight hours of sleep per night to decrease their risk of developing health issues and to properly maintain bodily functions.
What Is Insomnia?
Simply put, insomnia is the inability to fall asleep or to remain asleep at night, resulting in unrefreshing or non-restorative sleep. Individuals with insomnia report feeling unsatisfied with their sleep and typically experience one or more of the following symptoms: low energy, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, decreased performance at school or work and mood disturbances. According to Dr. Alex Lechin, sleep has two main stages, including rapid eye movement (REM) and slow wave or (delta) sleep. REM is when memory consolidation and the learning of new events take place, and it is during delta sleep that the body repairs itself as stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline are lowest during this time.
Insomnia refers to the quality of sleep and how one feels after a night’s sleep; not by how many hours an individual has slept or the speed at which they fall asleep. Many individuals remain unaware that they struggle with sleep and wake up feeling unrested. For this reason, individuals who are evaluated for sleeping disorders such as insomnia, are tested overnight in a sleeping clinic and evaluated by sleep specialists like Dr. Alex Lechin.
Testing for Sleep Disorders
The study of sleeping disorders is a relatively new field in modern science. It began in the 1950’s and by the 1960’s professionals had a basic understanding of sleep physiology and normal sleeping patterns. This new information and technology led to the creation of our modern sleeping clinics, which have continued to improve and evolve with new scientific research and the advancement of technology.
That being said, sleep medicine is a young and new branch of medical science. “One of the major contributing factors to the creation of sleep medicine was the invention and development of the polygraph, better known as the ‘lie detector’ machine,” says Dr. Alex Lechin. The machines used in modern sleep clinics have been created as extensions of the polygraph. The equipment can be used to record blood pressure, heart rate, breathing/respiration, brain waves, oxygen intake and more.
How to Get Tested and Treated for Insomnia and Sleeping Disorders
“When a patient is admitted to our institution for sleeping difficulties, in general, they will complain about one of two things: A) they have difficulty sleeping, or B), they are too sleepy and fatigued during the day,” says Dr. Alex Lechin.
Most people will go to their family doctor to seek help for their sleep disturbances prior to being referred to a sleeping clinic. Family doctors typically are not trained in sleep medicine and therefore aren’t familiar with possible causes or solutions, which is why they send their clients to see a specialist. Even for sleep medicine professionals the procedure of testing and diagnosing a sleep disorder is not a quick or easy process. There are many varieties of sleep disorders and causes of insomnia, and specialists require a complete medical history in order to fully evaluate one’s case. According to Dr. Lechin, if individuals are struggling with insomnia, they should consult their family doctor about seeing a sleep medicine specialist and take the first steps towards getting a good night’s sleep.