Sleep apnea is a potentially life-threatening disorder that occurs when breathing is interrupted during sleep. It’s important to detect and treat early because it can sometimes cause irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.
Sleep apnea occurs in men and women of all age groups, but it’s most common in overweight men. An estimated 18 million Americans live with sleep apnea.
There are two types of sleep apnea:
If you suffer from sleep apnea, you may experience as many as 100 to 200 involuntary breathing pauses - also known as apneic events – every single night. The constant disruption of deep sleep often leads to frequent morning headaches and excessive daytime sleepiness.
Insomnia is one of the most common sleep disorders and is characterized by frequent difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Insomnia leads to sleep deprivation, which can impact every aspect of life. This sleep disorder is often associated with:
Insomnia can also cause increased levels of impatience, irritability, depression and anxiety due to chronic sleep deprivation. It can even disrupt the production of hunger-relating hormones that control appetite, causing you to overeat and gain weight.
Insomnia may be caused by psychological, medical, environmental or lifestyle-related factors.
Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) - also known as nocturnal myoclonus - is characterized by unpleasant sensations and an irresistible urge to move the limbs. Most common in individuals over the age of 60, symptoms of RLS usually occur in the legs and may increase during times of rest, relaxation or inactivity. RLS symptoms often improve with activity, however increased activity at night can cause insomnia in some RLS patients.
The uncomfortable sensations associated with Restless Leg Syndrome, along with the involuntary jerking movements it can cause during sleep, often lead to sleep deprivation. Lack of sleep due to RLS is often associated with:
Research indicates that RLS may be connected to iron deficiency – a condition that can be caused by kidney failure, Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and pregnancy. RLS may also be hereditary and more likely to occur within families.
Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder caused by a lack of hypocretin in the brain.
Hypocretin is a chemical that helps to keep the brain awake and active. If you have narcolepsy, the neurons in your brain that contain hypocretin decay and eventually die.
Because you have low levels of these energizing neurons in your brain, you may experience excessive daytime sleepiness and intermittent, uncontrollable episodes of falling asleep during the day. These episodes tend to be frequent and involuntary.
People who don’t have narcolepsy go through a series of lighter sleep stages before falling into a deeper sleep. Those with narcolepsy tend to fall immediately into a much deeper sleep stage – often during waking hours, and even while driving, talking or walking.
Besides excessive daytime sleepiness, narcolepsy symptoms can include:
Sleep paralysis is a condition where you feel unable to move your arms, legs or torso during the onset of sleep or right after waking. It’s commonly associated with vivid dreams, and sometimes with hallucinations. Some people experience the feeling of pressure on their chest.
This short-term muscle paralysis does not harm you or impact your overall health. However, it can be stressful because you don't know how long it will last or when an episode will occur.
Young children are most likely to experience sleep paralysis, but it can also happen to adults. If you have narcolepsy, you may be more likely to experience sleep paralysis.
REM Sleep Behavior Disorder is a condition where you physically act out your dreams. You’re typically not aware of your actions unless you wake up during the episode. Most episodes of REM Sleep Disorder involve nightmare-type dreams of being chased or attacked, which causes you to physically defend yourself by violently punching, kicking and screaming.
The frequency with which you experiences REM sleep behavior can vary from once a week to several times a night. While frightening to witness, this is not a psychiatric disorder and does not predispose you to being outwardly aggressive during waking hours.
REM Sleep Disorder may be present in addition to another sleep disorder like sleep apnea.
Parasomnia occurs when the sleep process is disrupted by sleep-related events like sleepwalking or night terrors. It typically happens when a person is in a mixed state of sleep and awake.
Usually infrequent and mild, parasomnia behaviors aren't typically cause for concern. But if they happen often enough or become severe, you may need care from a sleep medicine specialist.
If you suffer from night sweats, you may wake to find your clothing and bedding soaked in sweat - even though the room is at a moderate temperature.
Night sweats can be associated with hormonal changes like menopause, or caused by medical treatment for conditions like cancer. While extremely uncomfortable, night sweats aren’t considered a serious medical condition that requires treatment.