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Breaking Down Common Sleep Disorders

Society has changed, and people are spending even more that ¾ of the day working, browsing the internet or even watching television. However, according to statistics, many people struggle with at least one chronic sleeping disorder.

Sleep Apnea

This is a disorder that causes disruption to the pattern of breathing as one sleeps. The typical pause between breaths is ten minutes. There are three types of sleep apnea. They are:

  • complex sleep apnea syndrome
  • central and obstructive sleep apnea

The latter is the most common type of the three.

Causes

  • Medical conditions-hypothyroid disease, kidney failure
  • Male gender
  • Being overweight

Symptoms

  • Loud or chronic snoring
  • Gasping or choking following pauses
  • A sore throat on waking up
  • Morning headaches

Treatment

  • Losing weight when necessary
  • Nasal sprays
  • Sleeping on the side

Narcolepsy

This is a disorder that occurs in the nervous system caused by the inability of the brain to control the sleeping pattern. People suffering from this disorder get sudden sleep attacks and overwhelming drowsiness during the day. However, it should be noted that these people sleep almost the same number of hours as the normal person, only that they have no control over when it happens.

Causes

  • Not well known, but linked to genetics

Symptoms

  • Insomnia- one is unable to sleep
  • Cataplexy- muscle tone loss
  • Fatigue- excessive drowsiness
  • Hallucinations- the perception of nonexistent things

Treatment

  • Medications
  • Lifestyle changes

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Insomnia

It refers to having difficulty in falling or staying asleep or even both. There are two types of insomnia namely secondary insomnia and primary insomnia. Based on the duration of the disorder, it can be classified as either chronic or acute.

Causes

  • Environmental factors- light, noise, temperature extremes
  • Medications- antidepressants, antihistamines, antihypertensive
  • Physical or emotional discomfort
  • Stress

Symptoms

  • Fatigue
  • Mood disturbance
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Unrefreshing sleep
  • Waking up very early in the morning
  • Difficulty staying/falling asleep
  • Difficulty with schools, relationships or work

Treatment

  • Sleeping pills
  • Treat underlying cause
  • in the evening hours avoid alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine
  • Taking a light meal during supper
  • Not sitting in bed while completing tasks
  • Having a regular relaxation routine before going to bed
  • Regular exercising program
  • Avoiding day naps
  • Going to bed at a fixed time

Sleepwalking

It involves performing behaviors that are complex or walking while asleep. It is a disorder that is common in children, compared to adults. The person should be awakened to avoid injury.

Causes

  • Sleep deprivation
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Psychiatric disorders
  • Heart conditions
  • Fever
  • Stress

Treatment

  • Treat the underlying cause
  • Medications

Symptoms

  • Inapt behavior though one is asleep
  • Sleep talking
  • Not remembering the sleep walking event
  • Screaming
  • Difficulty awakening the person
  • Violent attacks on anyone trying to wake the person

Restless Leg Syndrome

This disorder is characterized by unpleasant and overwhelming urges of moving legs at rest. The sensations intensify when one is sitting, lying or at rest. The symptoms range from intolerable to mild.

Causes

  • Pregnancy-especially the last trimester. Symptoms recede one month after delivering
  • Medications- antihistamines, antidepressants, antiemetic and antipsychotics
  • Chronic diseases- diabetes, peripheral neuropathy, iron deficiency, kidney failure

Symptoms

Symptoms not easily defined. Mostly comparisons like ‘ pricking needles and pins’ or ‘ like crawling ants’ are used in describing the disorder.

Treatment

  • Lifestyles changes- decreasing alcohol & caffeine, a regular program for exercising.
  • Good sleeping habits
  • Ice packs or heating pads applied to the legs
  • Leg massages

 Sleep Paralysis

A condition characterized by an inability to speak or move when rapid eye movement sleep has been interrupted. However, this is only temporary. It can either be hypnagogic or hypnopompic sleep paralysis. The first occurs when one becomes aware of not being able to speak or move when falling asleep. The second one occurs when one becomes aware of not being able to speak or move at the end of REM cycle.

Causes

  • Genetics
  • Sleeping on your back
  • Substance abuse
  • Medication used in treatment of ADHD
  • Other sleep disorders
  • Inconsistent sleep schedules
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Mental disorders

Symptoms

  • Menacing figure or hallucinations
  • The feeling of something being on the chest
  • The feeling of someone being in your room
  • Foreboding feeling

Treatment

  • Treatment of any underlying sleeping disorder
  • Use of antidepressant medications for regulating the sleep cycles
  • Improving the sleeping habits
Please keep the common sleeping orders in mind if you are having troubles sleeping.  There is help available to regain your normal sleep patterns.  Consult your physician if you are suffering from any of these sleep disorders.

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