Common Sleep Disorders

Hypersomnia

The main symptom of Idiopathic Hypersomnia Sleep (IHS) is a common daytime sleepiness despite adequate, or more typically, extraordinary sleep amounts (e.g., more than 10 hours per night). Additional symptoms and complaints commonly encountered include unrefreshing or non-restorative sleep, sleep inertia and sleep drunkenness (e.g., feeling of grogginess and disorientation upon awakening from a deep sleep). The usual age of onset is in the mid-to-late teens, although it can begin at a later age. Symptom intensity often varies between weeks, months or years, worsen prior to menses, and spontaneously remit in 10-15% of patients. Sleep is usually described as “deep” and arousal from sleep is usually difficult, often requiring multiple alarm clocks and morning rituals to ensure patients wake up for school or work. In contrast to the short and generally refreshing daytime naps observed in genuine narcolepsy, those in IHS patients can be very long – on the scale of hours – and unrefreshing. A history of hyper-sensitivity to other drugs further enhancing Gamma-aminobutyric acid receptor function such as alcohol, anesthetics or sedative-hypnotics can often occur.

  • Do you sleep more than 10 hours a night?
  • Do you find it difficult to wake up in the morning?
  • Do you wake up from a full night's sleep and still feel unrefreshed?
  • Are stimulant medications, for example Adderall or Dexedrine, ineffective at making you feel more alert?
  • Do you fall asleep inadvertently during the day?
  • Do you have a sibling, parent or child who has been diagnosed with a disorder of excessive daytime sleepiness?

If you answered "Yes" to several of the questions above, you may benefit from further evaluation by a sleep clinician.

Insomnia

Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep or periods of wakefulness during the night. It afflicts up to 10 percent of the population.

Parasomnia

This disorder encompasses a range of sleep events including:

  • Nightmares
  • Sleepwalking
  • Seizures
  • Acting out of strange behaviors, even violence, during sleep

Parasomnia is rare, but it can cause extreme disruption to an individual's daily functioning and family life.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a disorder that causes a cessation of breathing during sleep for intermittent periods of 10 to 60 seconds, that can disturb an individual’s sleep hundreds of time throughout the night without their knowledge.

As many as 18 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea. It is more common among men, those who snore, are overweight, have high blood pressure or physical abnormalities in their upper airway. Sleep apnea requires treatment, as it lowers blood-oxygen levels, puts a strain on the heart and has been associated with high blood pressure, stroke, headaches, depression, daytime sleepiness and a higher likelihood of diabetes and being involved in a car accident.

There are 2 main types of sleep apnea:

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

This is the most common type of apnea and occurs when the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses and blocks the airway, causing an individual to stop breathing or take shallow breaths while sleeping.

The airway blockage can be caused by a variety of factors including:

  • Excess weight
  • Alcohol consumption before sleep
  • An unusually large tongue
  • Large tonsils
  • The position of the jaw in proportion to the air passage
  • Excess tissue in the upper throat or nasal passages

Symptoms include:

  • Loud snoring followed by a period of silence
  • Night sweats
  • Waking up during the night gasping or choking
  • Waking up unrefreshed or with a headache
  • Sleepiness or trouble staying awake during the day
  • Irritability due to fatigue

Central Sleep Apnea

This form of sleep apnea is a result of breathing pauses during sleep. It is most often associated with both brain problems (for example, stroke) and heart problems.

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) or Periodic Limb Movements (PLM)

RLS and PLM cause a person's legs or other limbs to jerk or move during sleep, which disrupts sleep and results in excessive fatigue during the day.

  • The jerks typically occur every 20 to 40 seconds.
  • RLS causes a crawling or tingling sensation in the legs that is only relieved by moving the legs.

Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is an irresistible need to sleep no matter how much sleep you get. It can manifest in sleep attacks while talking, driving, or working, which last anywhere from 30 seconds to 30 minutes.

The onset of narcolepsy usually occurs between 15 and 30 years of age and is caused by the disturbance of REM (rapid eye movement) sleep into a waking state.

The four key symptoms include:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Cataplexy (episodes of muscle weakness during emotional periods of laughter, anger, or surprise)
  • Sleep paralysis (an inability to move when first waking up or falling asleep)
  • Hypnagogoic hallucinations (dreamlike images that occur at the point of drifting off to sleep)

The appropriate amount of sleep varies from person to person. For most people, eight hours each night is enough. But for many, six hours is plenty, and others may need ten. While your sleep habits may change throughout your life, contrary to popular belief, the amount of sleep you need doesn't really change. The following are some tips to help you determine whether you are getting too little sleep:

  • Extreme drowsiness during the day and inability to keep from falling asleep during repeated intervals
  • Irrational anger and irritability
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Forgetfulness and short-term memory loss

Almost everyone experiences difficulty with sleep at some time. Problems can range from snoring to insomnia and can be related to times of stress or anxiety. But, if a sleep disorder persists for more than a week, you should seek the help of a physician.

The most common sleep disorders include:

Insomnia: The inability to fall asleep or periods of wakefulness during the night, which afflicts up to 10 percent of the population.

Narcolepsy: An irresistible need to sleep no matter how much sleep you get, which can manifest in "sleep attacks" while talking, driving, or working.

Parasomnia: This disorder includes a range of sleep events such as nightmares, sleepwalking seizures, the acting out of strange behaviors while still asleep, or even violence. While parasomnia is a rare form of sleep disorder, it can cause extreme disruption to an individual's daily functioning and family life.

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) or Periodic Limb Movements (PLM): This condition causes twitching or jerking of the legs during sleep, resulting in sleep disruption and fatigue during the day.

Sleep Apnea: A disorder that causes a cessation of breathing during sleep for intermittent periods of 10 to 60 seconds.

There are two basic forms of sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is caused by an obstruction in the throat, while central sleep apnea is a neuromuscular condition caused by a delay in the brain's signal to breathe. The condition's most common symptom is excessive, loud snoring.

No, not necessarily. Simple snoring is caused by a partial obstruction of the upper airways, which may be annoying, but not harmful. However, those with a total obstruction will follow loud snoring with brief periods of silence, which can mean they are not breathing. Very loud, consistent snoring is usually an indication of sleep apnea and should be investigated.

People with sleep apnea are actually suffering a deprivation of oxygen, and, therefore, the long-term effects can be dangerous if not treated. Some of the risks of the untreated condition include heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure. In addition, the lack of restful sleep can cause an individual to experience extreme fatigue, which can lead to accidents while on the job or driving.

Risk Factors: Sleep apnea more often occurs in men and generally in the 35- to 65-year-old age group. Obesity and excessive alcohol use can also cause sleep apnea. Individuals with refractory hypertension and coronary artery disease are also more likely to develop sleep apnea.

Yes. Some treatments for mild sleep apnea include lifestyle changes such as weight loss or modifications to sleeping positions. There are also a variety of oral devices that can be worn during sleep to help open the air passageway.

However, more severe cases are treated with a procedure called Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), which opens the air passage using pressurized air blown into the nose through a nose mask device.

Facial deformities such as jaw structure, enlarged tonsils, or a large tongue can also cause moderate to severe sleep apnea. There are several surgical treatments that can be employed to correct these conditions.

Yes. Here are some beneficial tips: 

  • Try to maintain a consistent bedtime
  • Do not drink alcohol or caffeine in the late afternoon or evening before bedtime
  • Avoid naps during the day
  • Relax and unwind before bedtime
  • Keep your room dark, quiet, and conducive to sleeping
  • Exercise regularly, but not just before bedtime
  • If you are tossing and turning, try a relaxing activity such as reading a book or listening to soft music

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