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Common Sleep Disorders

Posted Dec 27 2010 8:08pm


There are surprisingly a large number of individuals who suffer from sleep disorders including insomnia (difficulty falling or staying asleep), sleep apnea (breathing stoppage during sleep), restless legs syndrome (a tingling or prickly sensation in the legs), and also narcolepsy (daytime sleep attacks).

Parasomnias are sleep problems such as night terrors, sleepwalking, sleep talking, head banging, wetting the bed, nightmares, and also grinding your teeth.

When someone suffers from insomnia they often have to deal with consequences of not getting enough sleep such as fatigue during the day, having difficulty thinking clearly or in staying focused, or they can also feel depressed or irritable. The amount of sleep a person needs can vary, but most of us require a minimum of 7 or 8 hours of solid sleep each night. There are different types of insomnia including transient which is short-term insomnia that may last anywhere from one night to a few weeks of sleepless nights. Intermittent insomnia is when it occurs on and off for a short time. The last type of insomnia is chronic or on-going insomnia that occurs at least 3 nights a week for one or more months in duration. Primary chronic insomnia is not related to any other health problem and secondary chronic insomnia is related to or caused by a medical condition such as asthma, arthritis or cancer, or stress or a mental health issue such as depression could cause it. A partner who snores, too much light or loud noise or even a sleeping atmosphere that is too hot or too cold may also cause secondary insomnia.

Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder and affects as many as twelve million Americans. Individuals suffering from apnea experience episodes of being without breath while they sleep. There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) which is caused by a blockage of the airway, central sleep apnea which the brain fails to signal the muscles to breathe and mixed apnea, which is a combination of the other two types. Risk factors for sleep apnea include being overweight, over age forty, and male. It can however affect anyone at any age, even children. Untreated sleep apnea can lead to high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, memory problems, weight gain, headaches, and impotency. Sleep apnea can lead to impairment on the job and while operating a motor vehicle. Sleep apnea can be diagnosed and treated.

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a neurological condition in which the individual who has it feels irresistible urges to move their legs. Individuals with RLS have difficulty falling or staying asleep. Many individuals who have RLS also have periodic limb movement of sleep (PLMS). When they have PLMS they can experience limb jerks every 20 to 30 seconds on and off throughout the night which can disrupt sleep. Due to these disruptions of sleep the individual becomes sleep deprived, which impacts their ability to function at work, school and can impact their health, relationships and employment.

Narcolepsy is another neurological disorder because the brain of the person with this disorder does not regulate the sleep-wake cycles as it is supposed to do causing the individual to have urges to sleep at inopportune times during the day. These urges to sleep are overwhelming and cause these individuals to fall asleep for anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes with some people falling asleep for an hour or longer. The cause of narcolepsy is not known but is likely to involve multiple factors that interact with each other in order to cause neurological dysfunction and the resultant sleep disturbances. There is no cure for narcolepsy at the current time.

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