Common Sleep Disorders

If you have chronic problems during sleep, you're not alone. Over one-third of the general population suffers from some kind of sleep disorder. The Emory Sleep Center treats a wide spectrum of these conditions, including:

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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