The causes of sleep disorders are numerous and range from environmental factors such as noise, stress, light, or irregular sleep patterns to medical factors such as depression, anxiety, menopause, excessive weight gain, pregnancy, diabetes, age, central nervous system malfunction, and genetics.

 

Causes of Sleep Disorders

 

The causes of sleep disorders are numerous and range from environmental factors such as noise, stress, light, or irregular sleep patterns to medical factors such as depression, anxiety, menopause, excessive weight gain, pregnancy, diabetes, age, central nervous system malfunction, and genetics.

 

Common Types of Sleep Disorders

 

There are many known sleep disorders. Below, you will find a brief description of several common sleep disorders. Keep in mind this is a partial list. If you experience symptoms of a sleep disorder please contact a sleep specialist for an evaluation. Some sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, left untreated, can be potentially fatal.

 

Insomnia

 

People with insomnia have chronic problems with falling asleep or staying asleep. This may be due to a number of causes, the most- well known of which are psychological problems such as stress or depression. However, insomnia may have other causes such as breathing difficulties or involuntary muscle movements.

 

Sleep Apnea

 

While many adults may snore occasionally, extremely loud, habitual snoring can be a symptom of a serious sleep disorder known as sleep apnea. Sleep Apnea is a disorder in which the patient actually stops breathing while asleep. After an episode of sleep apnea, which may last from ten seconds to well over a minute, the person awakens, gasping for air, but is unaware that sleep has been disrupted. Sleep apneas can occur hundreds of times during the night. By morning, the majority of “sleep” time has actually been spent not breathing; therefore, the person awakens more tired than before going to sleep. As a result they often experience excessive daytime sleepiness. Excessive day- time sleepiness, one of the debilitating symptoms of sleep apnea may cause the person fall asleep while at work or driving; therefore, people suffering from sleep apnea are at increased risk for job-related injuries and automobile accidents.

 

Severe Sleep Apnea may lead to significant health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and an enlarged heart. People with untreated sleep apnea are at increased risk for stroke and heart attack. These changes are caused by the body’s attempts to obtain more oxygen during sleep and are considered serious medical disorders.

 

There are three types of Sleep Apnea

 

Obstructive Sleep Apnea, generally characterized by extremely loud snoring, involves obstruction in the airway during sleep. Despite vigorous attempts to breathe, the patient cannot do so unless he/she awakens.

 

Central Apneas, occur when the air flow has stopped due to a lack of respiratory effort by the diaphragm, causing the body’s system to stop working temporarily during sleep.

 

Mixed Apneas, are a combination of obstructive and central apneas. Actually, it is not uncommon for a patient to experience all three types of sleep apneas each night.

 

Narcolepsy

 

Narcolepsy is a chronic, neurological disorder involving your body’s central nervous system. Symptoms include; cataplexy, which is a sudden loss of muscle control ranging from slight weakness to total collapse, intense emotional experiences, such as anger, surprise, laughter, fear may trigger an episode; sleep paralysis, which is the inability to talk or move for a brief time when falling asleep or waking up; vivid and scary dreams or sounds reported when falling asleep called hypnagogic hallucinations; and automatic behavior such as routine tasks performed without full awareness or memory of them later.

 

In addition to excessive daytime sleepiness, people afflicted with narcolepsy often suffer from unexpected “sleep attacks”. “Sleep Attacks” can be extremely dangerous when they occur while the person is driving, operating equipment or performing other functions.

 

Of all the sleep disorders, narcolepsy is the least understood and the most frequently misdiagnosed. It is not uncommon for narcoleptic patients to consult many different medical specialists over a number of years, to find out that, in the end, their disorder is narcolepsy. This situation is frequently complicated by the inability of family, friends, and employers to understand the complexity of the disorder.

 

Narcolepsy is a life long condition for which there is currently no known cure. However, through various treatment techniques and modifications of lifestyle, many people manage their disorder with remarkable results.

 

Restless Leg Syndrome

 

People with this syndrome often experience restlessness in their legs or arms, particularly in the evening or when resting. Many patients with restless leg syndrome report uncomfortable sensations. Some words used to describe these sensations include: a “creepy- “crawly”, “gnawing”, “itching”, or “pulling”. RLS can cause difficulty falling or staying asleep, which is a chief complaint of this syndrome. A substantial number of people who have RLS experience periodic limb movements (PLMS) during sleep. These jerks may occur every 20-30 seconds or more on and off throughout the night causing partial awakenings that disrupt sleep. Sleep deprivation can seriously impact your work, relationships, and health.

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