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When Should You Go to Sleep?

Did you know that the amount of sleep you need mainly depends on how many sleep cycles you need to feel well-rested? Also, keep in mind that your sleep needs change during your lifetime meaning that you might need less sleep compared to ten years ago, for example. So, how much sleep do you actually need and why is sleep so important? Continue reading below to find out.

Why is Sleep Vital for Health?

The truth is, sleep is critical to your health in numerous ways as it can affect everything from metabolism and mood to brain function. In short, getting a good night’s sleep regularly helps you:

  • regulate hormone production that controls metabolism, growth, appetite, and healing.
  • improve brain function including focus, concentration, and productivity.
  • maintain a healthy immune system
  • reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke
  • lower the risk for chronic health conditions like hypertension and diabetes
  • keep a healthy weight
  • boost athletic performance including speed and reaction time
  • reduce the risk of depression
  • improve sexual function and libido

How Much Sleep Do You Need?

Now that you understand that sleep is crucial for optimal health, it’s time we move on to the amount of sleep you need. As already noted, sleep needs vary throughout your lifetime. So, for example, an infant may need up to 17 hours of sleep per day, whereas an older adult may only need 7 hours of sleep a day.

Plus, the amount of sleep you need may also vary from person to person, even within the same age group. However, the general sleep guidelines can offer a place to start calculating and determining the ideal amount of sleep for optimal health. Here’s the general recommended amount of sleep for different age groups:

  • 14 to 17 hours – birth to 3 months
  • 12 to 16 hours – 4 to 11 months
  • 11 to 14 hours – 1 to 2 years
  • 10 to 13 hours – 3 to 5 years
  • 9 to 12 hours – 6 to 12 years
  • 9 to 10 hours – 13 to 18 years
  • 7 to 9 hours – 18 to 64 years
  • 7 to 8 hours – 65+ years

To determine the perfect amount of sleep you need per night, you might experiment with different amounts of sleep and track how you feel after waking up. In other words, you might consider keeping a sleep journal where you evaluate your sleep needs by answering the following questions:

  • Do I feel rested after 7 hours of sleep, or perhaps I need more?
  • Do I feel sleepy during the day or experience daytime drowsiness?
  • Do I consume caffeine to keep me awake throughout the day?
  • Do I experience any sleep issues throughout the night?
  • Has my partner complained about me tossing, turning, snoring, etc.?

These questions may help you evaluate your sleep and your needs and as soon as you identify the perfect amount of sleep you need, start focusing on the time you should go to sleep.

When Should You Go to Sleep?

Namely, for most people, wake-up time remains the same every day, but their bedtime varies depending on numerous factors, such as social life, family obligations, work schedule, etc. Unfortunately, many people overlook the importance of going to bed on time and end up lacking sleep.

Therefore, after determining the specific amount of sleep you need, you should determine when you should go to sleep at night and not let any other activities interfere with your bedtime. That said, organize your time so that any obligations finish before your ideal bedtime.

Finally, calculate your bedtime based on your wake-up time and the amount of sleep you need to function at your best throughout the day and don’t forget to allow 15 minutes to fall asleep. Thus, if you have to get up at 6 a.m. and you need 8 hours of sleep, go to bed at 9:45 p.m.

Types and Causes of Dyspnea

In short, dyspnea is shortness of breath that people often describe as being hungry for air. And, although it might be normal to experience dyspnea after strenuous exercise, becoming dyspneic can also happen as a result of a medical issue like anxiety, obesity, as well as lung or heart disease.

Dyspnea Symptoms and Complications

Common symptoms of dyspnea include short, rapid, shallow, effortful, slow, and painful or uncomfortable breathing. Yet, other severe symptoms might also be present such as chest pressure, tightness, or heaviness, a feeling of suffocation, or an inability to breathe.

And, as you can guess, dyspnea, especially sudden and extreme dyspnea, requires urgent medical attention. It can result in oxygen deprivation which can lead to confusion or loss of consciousness. Plus, prolonged oxygen deprivation can result in hypoxia (low oxygen in the body’s tissues) and hypoxemia (low oxygen in the blood), which can then lead to serious health issues like brain damage and kidney failure.

Dyspnea Types and Causes

As we already mentioned before, strenuous exercise might cause dyspnea but this is completely harmless. It occurs because during exercise your body needs more oxygen and makes you breathe faster. However, it resolves after a few minutes of rest. On the other hand, if dyspnea occurs as a result of a medical problem, it should be medically addressed.

Acute Dyspnea

Dyspnea can be acute, which means that a person experiences sudden episodes of dyspnea with completely normal breathing between these episodes. Some common medical conditions that might cause acute dyspnea include:

  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Lung infections
  • Pulmonary embolus
  • Pulmonary effusion
  • Pneumothorax
  • Asthma
  • Aspiration
  • Inhalation of an object
  • Allergies
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • Chest trauma

Chronic Dyspnea

As the name itself suggests, chronic dyspnea is the one that doesn’t go away and gradually worsens over time. As it progresses, it might start interfering with your daily life and make you feel short of breath even with moderate activities such as climbing stairs.

Common causes of chronic dyspnea include:

  • Heart conditions, such as heart attack, arrhythmias, and congestive heart failure
  • Lung diseases, such as pulmonary hypertension, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and lung cancer
  • Chronic conditions including anemia, kidney failure, or cancer
  • Obesity

Lung or heart disease are quite likely to contribute to developing chronic dyspnea as both these conditions affect the body’s oxygen supply. Systemic illnesses and obesity, on the other hand, increase the body’s oxygen demands, leading to shortness of breath.

Furthermore, patients with chronic dyspnea must avoid exposure to cigarette smoke and environmental fumes as they might contribute to flare-ups. They should also try to prevent respiratory infections due to the same reason.

Dyspnea Risk Factors

What’s more, anyone with a major health problem, from babies to elderly adults, can develop dyspnea, even as a result of a mild respiratory infection. Also, pregnant women can become dyspneic with mild exertion or even at rest, as the growing uterus and hormonal changes contribute to pregnancy dyspnea.

Final Thoughts

Dyspnea is uncomfortable, sometimes even painful. It can also cause you to feel frightened and overwhelmed. Hence, if you experience recurrent, sudden, or severe episodes of dyspnea, ensure you get medical attention. You might even need urgent medical intervention. That said, make sure you seek help right away to get checked and get the treatment you need.

Stridor: Overview, Causes, Treatment

The abnormal, high-pitched sound made when breathing with an obstructed upper airway is called stridor.  Stridor is commonly a symptom of another disease or health condition. It might be heard during inhalation, exhalation, or both, and doctors can easily recognize it. If you want to learn more about this distinctive sound, continue reading below.

Stridor Causes

A range of different conditions can cause stridor and depending on the cause symptoms can vary, too.

Croup

Also known as laryngotracheobronchitis, stridor in croup is usually characterized by the sound of seal barking. The cough usually worsens at bedtime and it is most common in infants and young children. Some of the most common causes of croup are viruses including influenza, adenoviruses, measles, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

Retropharyngeal Abscess

This condition is a result of a complication of a bacterial throat infection. Like croup, it is also common among children under six years old. And, the typical symptoms of retropharyngeal abscess include high fever and sore throat.

Peritonsillar Abscess

Similar to the previous one, peritonsillar abscess is often a complication of an infection such as strep throat or tonsillitis. However, this condition is most common among young adolescents and teenagers. It is characterized by a really painful sore throat, chills, fever, and difficulty swallowing.

Epiglottitis

Although very rare, especially in vaccinated children, if it does manifest, this condition might be life-threatening. Apart from stridor and other abnormal breathing sounds, it is characterized by uncontrollable drooling, inability to swallow, and high fevers.

Anaphylaxis

Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that is life-threatening, just like epiglottitis. It can occur as a result of different types of allergies like insect sting, food allergy, etc. Other typical symptoms of anaphylaxis include swelling, hives, runny nose, itching, rash, etc.

Laryngomalacia

This chronic condition is caused by a softening around the tissues of the voice box and is even present at birth, meaning that it is congenital. The first symptoms manifest quite shortly after birth and might include feeding difficulties, acid reflux, and poor weight gain.

Vocal Cord Paralysis

There are several reasons for paralyzed vocal cords such as trauma (injury or surgery) or an infection. Plus, it can also be congenital in case of bilateral vocal cord paralysis meaning that it affects both sides. Symptoms include a weak cry in infants, a weak voice in adults, coughing or choking while eating, and more.

Vocal Cord Lesions

Finally, papillomas caused by human papillomavirus (HPV) infections or a nodule that prevents the vocal cords from closing properly are called vocal cord lesions. Nodules typically occur as a result of voice overuse (screaming, excessive coughing, or straining your voice).

Stridor Treatment

Depending on how severely breathing is affected and the cause of stridor, your doctor will be able to determine the right treatment for you. If stridor is mild and the cause is known and also not that serious, your doctor may suggest home treatment.

So, for example, in mild cases of croup, you might be recommended to use a cool-mist humidifier, sit in a steamy bathroom, breathe fresh cool air, drink cool liquids, suck on popsicles, and more.

However, if breathing is severely affected, supplemental oxygen might be needed, or breathing treatments using medications such as racemic epinephrine. Sometimes, in truly severe cases, a breathing tube and subsequent ventilation might be needed.

Last but not least, surgical intervention might be required if stridor is caused by inhaling a foreign object, laryngomalacia, or laryngeal or tracheal stenosis.

Heart Failure Classification Systems

Once a patient is diagnosed with heart failure, doctors have to classify the patient’s degree of heart failure. However, heart failure classification can sometimes be challenging as the way the condition affects a patient differs from person to person due to risk factors and other underlying health conditions that contribute to or complicate heart failure.

Luckily, the heart failure classification system helps healthcare professionals determine the patient’s degree of heart failure and develop individualized treatment plans. That said, let’s have a closer look at the most commonly used heart failure classification systems:

  • New York Heart Association Functional Classification
  • American College of Cardiology/ American Heart Association Classification

New York Heart Association Functional Classification

This specific system focuses on using a doctor’s objective assessment of how the condition affects the patient’s day-to-day activities to categorize the degree of heart failure. Here are the four classes:

  • Class I – The patient doesn’t report any objective evidence of cardiovascular disease and doesn’t experience any symptoms or limitations with daily physical activity.
  • Class II – There’s slight objective evidence of cardiovascular disease, and the patient feels comfortable at rest but experiences mild symptoms with moderate physical activity.
  • Class III – Objective evidence of moderately severe cardiovascular disease is present and the patient is only comfortable at rest while experiencing heart failure symptoms even with less than normal physical activity.
  • Class IV – There’s objective evidence of severe cardiovascular disease and the patient experiences heart failure symptoms even at rest and faces severe limitations with physical activity as a result of the symptoms.

American College of Cardiology/ American Heart Association Classification

Contrary to the first one, this heart failure classification system focuses on the condition’s structural impact on the heart, like the measurement of ejection faction for example. Here are the four stages:

  • Stage A – The patient doesn’t have any structural heart disorder, but is at a higher risk of developing congestive heart failure because of a family history of heart failure or a personal history of coronary artery disease, diabetes, hypertension, viral infections, or alcohol or heart-toxic drug abuse.
  • Stage B – There is a structural disorder of the heart, but there aren’t any heart failure symptoms (pre-heart failure).
  • Stage C – The patient has a structural heart disorder and has currently or previously experienced heart failure symptoms.
  • Stage D – The patient doesn’t get any relief with treatment in this final stage of heart failure.

Heart Failure Treatments and Management

Although heart failure cannot be reversed, treatment can help keep the current stage of the condition or slow down the progression of heart failure. In general, heart failure treatments are based on the stage/class of the condition.

So, for patients with Class I or Stage A heart failure, a healthy diet and regular exercise can prevent heart failure. If the disease moves on to the next stage, medications or cardiac surgery might be needed. Then, for Class III or Stage C, doctors might recommend additional therapies, diet restrictions, or heart surgery. Finally, for the last stage, specialized treatments are required, like continuous infusions of medication through IV, heart surgery to implant a pumping device, or even a heart transplant.

Final Thoughts

If you have been diagnosed with heart failure or are at a higher risk for developing the condition, ensure you visit your doctor for regular check-ups so that you follow the degree of the heart failure and thus can get the right treatment. Remember, even if heart failure isn’t reversible, you can still slow down or prevent progression by following your doctor’s recommendations.

Everything to Know About Labored Breathing

Labored breathing is an umbrella term for experiencing breathing difficulties. It can apply to numerous conditions characterized by physically impaired breathing. Yet, it is not a medical term but only a term people use to describe ‘hard to breathe’. Still, if you are having difficulty breathing that’s not a result of strenuous exercise, seek medical help right away.

Now, if you want to learn everything about labored breathing, read on below!

Labored Breathing Symptoms

When breathing is restricted, impaired, or obstructed, it might point to several symptoms which include:

  • Dyspnea – shortness of breath
  • Apnea – abnormal breathing interruptions
  • Hyperpnea – fast, deeper breathing
  • Bradypnea – slow breathing
  • Tachypnea – fast, shallow breathing
  • Stridor – a harsh, grating breathing sound
  • Wheezing – a whistling sound when exhaling

Other labored breathing signs might include grunting, nasal flaring, intercostal retractions, and cyanosis. And, in extreme cases, labored breathing can result in asphyxia, or even suffocation if it is caused by airflow blockage.

Labored Breathing Causes

There are plenty of reasons that can lead to labored breathing, from allergic reactions like anaphylaxis to anxiety disorders like PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). In general, the causes are classified as acute (developing quickly and often severe) or chronic (persistent and progressive).

Common acute causes of labored breathing include:

  • Asbestosis
  • Anaphylaxis
  • Chest or neck injury
  • Choking
  • Asphyxiation
  • Panic attacks
  • Pleural effusion
  • Pericardial effusion
  • Pneumonia
  • Pulmonary thrombosis
  • Pneumothorax
  • Whooping cough

Common chronic causes of labored breathing include:

  • Asthma
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
  • Asthma
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Lung cancer
  • Pulmonary sarcoidosis
  • Pulmonary edema
  • Tuberculosis
  • Cystic fibrosis

Labored Breathing Diagnosis

When a patient experiences labored breathing, doctors typically order tests and procedures that will help them identify the underlying cause of it. Primary evaluation tools for labored breathing include:

  • Physical exam – A doctor will listen to your lungs, monitor your pulse, count breaths per minute, and look for any visible symptoms like intercostal retractions, nasal flaring, or cyanosis.
  • Blood tests – These might include an arterial blood gas (ABG) test to measure blood oxygen level and a complete blood count (CBC) test to check for anemia
  • Imaging studies – A chest X-ray, CT scan, or MRI scan can identify abnormal changes in the lungs like pneumonia or pleural effusion
  • Pulmonary function tests – These might include spirometry which measures both the speed and force by which air is expelled from the lungs.
  • Electrocardiogram – An ECG is a non-invasive test that measures the electrical activity of the heart and helps in determining its functioning.

All of the above-listed tests can point your doctor in the direction of the possible cause of your labored breathing. Then, you might need additional tests and/or procedures to determine the right cause and get treatment based on the diagnosis.

Labored Breathing Treatments

Depending on the underlying cause of labored breathing, the treatment can vary. But, what if the underlying cause is still unknown? No worries, you will still get treatment, especially if your symptoms are severe.

Primary labored breathing treatments include:

  • Short-acting beta-agonists
  • Epinephrine injection
  • Corticosteroids
  • Oxygen therapy
  • Anxiolytics

Final Thoughts

Labored breathing isn’t considered normal, especially if it isn’t caused by strenuous exercise. Indeed, it often points to a health issue that is prolonged and abnormal. It may be due to a physical condition like COPD, or a psychological one like panic attacks. Unfortunately, it may be severe sometimes, and seek emergency medical help.

That said, if you have been experiencing any breathing difficulties, ensure you talk to your doctor as soon as possible to determine the underlying cause and get proper treatment.