Sleep is an important ingredient in our daily lives, essential for renewing our mental and physical health each day. Yet over 75 sleep disorders have been identified which interrupt or disturb our sleep and can have substantial effects on our waking life. Common sleep disorders are listed below.
The first step in treating any sleep disorder is diagnosis—determining what type of problem is affecting an individual’s sleep. An overnight sleep study is often necessary to record and evaluate the brain’s activity and body systems during sleep in order to develop an accurate diagnosis and treatment recommendations.
Common symptoms of sleep disorders are excessive daytime sleepiness, loud snoring, repeated awakening during sleep, or excessive movement before or during sleep.
The Epworth Sleepiness Scale is a common first step in evaluating whether you may have a sleep disorder.
Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS) is a pattern of obstructed breathing that can disturb sleep dozens to hundreds of times each night. Often these disturbances are not remembered. If you have OSAS, the oxygen levels in your body may drop during sleep and you probably don’t sleep soundly, resulting in daytime sleepiness. OSAS can also put you at risk for high blood pressure, heart failure, heart attack or stroke. OSAS can be life threatening.
The most common symptoms are snoring, snorting or gasping during sleep, waking up repeatedly at night, excessive daytime sleepiness, and morning headaches.
Sleep apnea is commonly treated with a therapy called CPAP.
Narcolepsy is overwhelming sleepiness at inappropriate times. The most common symptoms are daytime sleepiness, cataplexy (a sudden loss of muscle strength), sleep paralysis, or hypnagogic hallucinations (vivid dreamlike experiences that occur when a person is drowsy).
Leg Movement Disorders
There are two common leg movement disorders that interrupt a person’s ability to sleep at night, which then can affect daytime function.
Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) Individuals with RLS report unpleasant sensations in their legs when sitting or lying still, especially at bedtime, which are relieved by stretching or moving the legs. The need to move to eliminate the RLS sensations can prevent a person from falling asleep.
Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD) also known as nocturnal myoclonus. While RLS movements are voluntary, PLMD is involuntary periodic movement which most often occurs when a person is asleep.
Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep. Those who suffer from insomnia often experience daytime symptoms of sleepiness and have trouble concentrating. Insomnia can range from short-term to chronic, and there are many causes and a wide variety of treatment approaches.
The term parasomnia refers to a broad range of disruptive sleep-related events such as sleep walking, sleep terrors, and confusional arousals. Most occur when a person is between sleep and awake states—awake enough to act out complex behaviors, but still asleep enough to fail to control or remember these acts.
Shift Work Sleep Challenges
Many people who work at times other than standard daytime hours have trouble falling asleep during the day and being alert on the job at night. This is primarily because the body’s circadian rhythm is tuned to nighttime sleeping. A variety of strategies are available to help a person adjust to non-standard sleep patterns.