Sleep Disordersby Type

Overview

Whether you can’t fall asleep, can’t stop falling asleep, or simply experience poor sleep quality, chances are good that there’s a sleep disorder to explain your symptoms. The specialists at our Sleep Medicine Centers diagnose and treat a wide variety of sleep disorders, including sleep apnea, insomnia, narcolepsy, sleep paralysis and more.

Sleep Apnea

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:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when air can’t flow into or out of your nose or mouth – even when you’re making an effort to breathe.
  • Central sleep apnea is far less common, and occurs when the brain fails to send the appropriate signals to the breathing muscles that initiate respiration.

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

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:

  • Impaired concentration and memory
  • Diminished reaction time
  • Low energy
  • Increased work errors
  • Poor overall work performance

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)

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:

  • Impaired concentration and memory
  • Diminished reaction time
  • Low energy
  • Poor performance in the workplace

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

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:

  • Cataplexy – a loss of muscle tone that leads to feelings of weakness and a loss of voluntary muscle control.
  • Hallucinations that are vivid and frequently frightening. They can come on as the person is falling asleep or upon waking.
  • Sleep paralysis – the temporary inability to move or speak while falling asleep or waking.
  • Interrupted nighttime sleep or fragmented nighttime sleep.

Idiopathic Hypersomnia

Like narcolepsy, a major symptom of idiopathic hypersomnia is excessive daytime sleepiness. But while narcolepsy is caused by a lack of hypocretin in the brain, the cause of hypersomnia remains unknown. While daytime sleepiness in people with hypersomnia is usually less severe than in those with narcolepsy, the sleep disorder can still be disabling; it can cause decreased work or school performance, stress in personal relationships and pose a dangerous driving hazard.

Sleep Paralysis

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 Disorder

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.

Sleep Bruxism

Sleep Bruxism – the grinding or clenching of teeth in your sleep - can have numerous side effects including jaw disorders, headaches and teeth damage. Mild cases may not require treatment, but if symptoms like tooth sensitivity, jaw tightness, earaches and headaches are interfering with your quality of life, you should seek the assistance of a sleep medicine specialist.

Parasomnia

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.

  • Sleepwalking happens when a person gets up from bed and walks around while they’re still asleep. People who sleepwalk may talk or shout as they walk, and most commonly walk with their eyes open. In extreme cases, a person might exhibit inappropriate behavior, like relieving themselves outside the restroom, acting hostile or becoming violent. A sleepwalker may even eat or drive a car.

  • Night terrors are characterized by extreme terror and a temporary inability to regain full consciousness. They are often paired with sleepwalking. More common in children, most people eventually outgrow them.

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.

Night Sweats

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.

Snoring

Snoring is often a symptom of a more serious sleep condition call sleep apnea. With sleep apnea, you actually stop breathing for brief periods of time during sleep. When snoring happens regularly outside of a head cold, it’s important to have the condition assessed by a sleep medicine expert, since sleep apnea can lead to serious medical complications including heart problems.

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