About Sleep Disorders
A sleep disorder is any condition that interrupts normal sleep-wake patterns. The following describes various sleep disorders that affect millions of Americans.
► Sleep Apnea & Snoring
Snoring is a common problem, but loud snoring can be a symptom of a serious sleep disorder called sleep apnea. People with this disorder actually stop breathing repeatedly during sleep (as many as several hundred times a night) due to complete or partial blockage of the airway by tissue in the nose or throat.
The resulting decrease in oxygen levels may increase blood pressure and can cause the heart rate to slow or stop for a few seconds. The poor sleep quality caused by sleep apnea leads to excessive daytime sleepiness, difficulty concentrating, memory problems and headaches.
Narcolepsy is characterized by excessive, uncontrollable sleep episodes during the day which interfere with daily activities. Other symptoms may be vivid nightmares or hallucinations at the onset of sleep, temporary paralysis of arms and legs when falling asleep or sudden muscle weakness during moments of intense emotions, such as anger or excitement.
Insomnia is a perception or complaint of inadequate or poor quality of sleep. It is characterized by trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or both. Insomnia affects people of all ages, children and adults.
Many factors contribute to insomnia, which include stress, lifestyle choices, environmental factors such as noise and psychological factors such as depression and anxiety. Physical illness such as breathing disorders, periodic leg movements and gastroesophageal reflux may also cause insomnia.
► Periodic Limb Movement Disorder
Periodic limb movement disorder or nocturnal myoclonus, is the repetitive kicking, jerking or flexing of arms or legs through the night due to involuntary muscle contractions.
Patients often experience a crawling sensation or a restless feeling in the legs when first going to bed. It can lead to the inability to fall asleep and remain asleep.
► Other Sleep Problems
You may also experience sleep problems as a result of:
- Chronic respiratory problems or lung diseases, which can worsen during sleep, greatly reducing the oxygen levels in the blood.
- Significant changes in your sleep-wake schedule, such as those due to shift work, or jet lag.
- Nightmares or night terrors. Nightmares are frightening dreams which can be recalled later. They may occur at any age. In adults, they may be related to psychological factors. Night terrors, on the other hand, cannot be recalled in the morning and are most common in young children.