Sleeping disorders can cause significant health problems and often remain undiagnosed among sufferers. Insomnia, sleep apnea (apnoea), and sleep walking are just a few of the conditions which contribute to sleep deprivation and lead to an individual not feeling refreshed and restored when they wake up. Sleep is an essential component of good health and professionals rate it as important as exercise and diet. Inadequate sleep can result in fatigue, depression, concentration problems, illness and injury.I have personally suffered from chronic insomnia and understand how debilitating this can be over time.
The difficultly with diagnosing sleep disorders is because people often don't know the quality of the sleep they are getting. Six hours of quality sleep could be enough to have a person feeling rested the next day, but having eight to 10 hours of restless sleep may leave you feeling exhausted after you awaken and for the rest of the day. Of course this can be exacerbated if you have young children or work shifts which change your regular sleep patterns.
So how much sleep is enough sleep?
According to the National Sleep Foundation, there is no specific number of hours of sleep required every day. Children and recuperating patients need more sleep to help them grow and or recover, but some adults who are healthy in every respect admit they can't cope if they don't have 10 hours of quality sleep every night.
What is Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea can be a very dangerous condition which has been linked to heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke. It is characterised by pauses in breathing or instances of shallow or infrequent breathing during sleep, commonly caused by snoring. When you are not breathing, your oxygen level falls andcauses your blood pressure to go up. Unfortunately when you are breathing normally while awake, the problem of low oxygen levels continues and therefore your blood pressure remains high during a whole 24 hour sleep-wake cycle. Billy Connolly, the Scottish comedian and actor, is a high-profile sufferer of sleep apneaand tellssome very funny stories about trying to cure the problem, but for people unaware they are suffering this chronic condition, the results can be tragic.
Most health professionals will ask a patient to participate in an overnight sleep study to determine if they are suffering this condition. There are several treatments for sleep apnea with the two most common being nasal continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) or an Oral Appliance. The introduction of either one of these treatments can lead to a person living a normal and healthy life.
It has been suggested one in 10 people suffer from insomnia with the most common causes being stress, medication and other stimulants, pain, anxiety and depression. People who experience insomnia for more than one month are considered chronic sufferers but many experience the condition for short periods of time during stressful events. The most likely groups of sufferers are older people with ill health and shift workers, due to the constant changing of the sleep patterns. Women are also twice as likely to suffer insomnia and this has been related to higher rates of anxiety and depression.
Treatment will depend on the cause of the insomnia. Poor sleep habits can be mitigated through lifestyle changes and if the root cause is anxiety of depression, cognitive behavioural treatment can also alleviate the condition. Importantly though, sleeping pills and other prescribed medication are only temporary cures and their effectiveness will decrease over time.
If you are suffering from a sleep disorder, it is important you seek treatment from a health professional. There are significant ongoing health problems which can result from chronic cases and you can end up causing injury to yourself and other people.
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A sleep disorder is a problem that stops people from sleeping normally. But really what is normal sleeping? There are many sleep disorders, and some of them are very serious. A test commonly ordered for some sleep disorders is the polysomnogram.
Types of sleep disorders[change | change source]
Sleep disorders can be put into groups. These groups include:
- Dysomnia - these are sleep disorders which cause too much or too little sleep. Some of these are caused within the body while some are externally caused. For example, insomnia and narcolepsy are two of the dysomnias.
- Circadian rhythm sleep disorders - these cause sleeping at unusual times: too early, too late or not often. People with these disorders can usually get enough sleep, just at the "wrong" time of day. These disorders are sometimes included among the dysomnias. MeSH
- Parasomnias - these are doing things not normally done while sleeping, without the person being aware of what they are doing. They include walking, eating, dressing, bedwetting and other events.
- Medical or psychiatric disorders - these problems may also cause trouble sleeping. People with depression or alcoholism may sleep poorly.
(Sleeping sickness, a disease carried by the Tsetse fly, is not classified as a sleep disorder.)
Common sleep disorders[change | change source]
The most common sleep disorders include:
- Bruxism: grinding or clenching the teeth while sleeping
- Delayed sleep phase syndrome/disorder (DSPS): a circadian rhythm sleep disorder (see above): waking up and falling asleep much later than normal, but with no problem staying asleep
- Hatzfeldt Syndrome, or Systemic Neuro-Epiphysial Disorder (SNED): an irregular sleep pattern, as well as irregular behavior
- Hypopnea syndrome: abnormally shallow or slow breathing while sleeping
- Narcolepsy: falling asleep spontaneously and unwillingly at the wrong times
- Night terror disorder: sudden awakening from sleep showing fear or terror
- Parasomnias, see above
- Periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD): Sudden uncontrolled movement of arms and/or legs during sleep, for example kicking the legs. (Can seem like hypnic jerk, but hypnic jerk is not a disorder.)
- Primary insomnia, inability to get to sleep or stay asleep, not caused by any other disorder
- Rapid eye movement behavior disorder (RBD): acting out violent or dramatic dreams while in "rapid eye movement" (REM) sleep, also called dream sleep
- Restless legs syndrome (RLS): urge or need to move legs. People with RLS often also have PLMD.
- Shift work sleep disorder (SWSD)
- Sleep apnea (obstructive type): often waking suddenly when breathing stops, and usually loud snoring
- Sleep paralysis: temporary paralysis of the body shortly before or after sleep. Sleep paralysis may be accompanied by hallucinations of sight, hearing or touch. It is quite common.
- Sleepwalking: one of the parasomnias, see above
Common causes of sleep disorders[change | change source]
Changes in life style, such as shift work change or travelling over several time zones, can cause sleep disorders. Some other problems that can cause sleeping problems include:
Treatment[change | change source]
A sleep diary or log can be used to help diagnose (define) the problem. It can also be used to measure improvements.
According to Dr. William Dement of the Stanford Sleep Center, anyone who snores and is sleepy in the daytime should see a doctor about sleep disorders.[source?]
In case of chronic pain, both the pain and the sleep problems should be treated. Pain can lead to sleep problems and vice versa.
The choice of a treatment for a sleep disorder depends on the patient's diagnosis, his/her medical and psychiatric history, and how she or he prefers to be treated. Medications sometimes work fast. On the other hand, sometimes behavioral treatment of insomnia may give more lasting results.