Types of Sleep Disorders
Different types of sleep disorders keep people awake and prevent proper sleep. Sleep disorders range from the common, self-correcting issues to physical and neurological disorders. Sleep disorders prevent people from resting properly whether it’s getting to sleep, staying asleep or cycling through the stages of sleep. Sleep is vital to the body’s ability to heal, to process information, to digest, to relax and to function. While a person can stay awake for days on end, they will begin to suffer the debilitating effects of sleep deprivation such as a breakdown in cognitive functions, weight gain and a weakened immune system. Sleep disorders are about more than missing one night of sleep here or there, sleep disorders indicate a persistent inability to rest.
Apnea Sleep Disorders
Apnea sleep disorders are related directly to respiratory issues. Hypopnea syndrome indicates very shallow or slow breathing while sleeping. The shallow breathing can sound like wheezing or mild gasping and reduces the level of oxygen saturation in the blood. The heart must pump harder to get enough oxygen. Obstructive sleep apnea is typically caused by a physical defect or weakness in the soft tissue of the throat. While sleeping, a person with OSA will periodically cease breathing due to the soft tissue collapsing and blocking the airway. They will experience an arousal to waking, gasping and choking for air. The arousal episodes occur several times during the night although the patient may only remember one in five of the waking episodes. Obstructive sleep apnea may be corrected by surgery. Central sleep apnea is caused by a neurological problem. The brain fails to send the right messages to the muscles controlling your breathing. Causes of central sleep apnea are related to neurological diseases, stroke, surgery and spinal damage. Primary snoring differs from the snoring associated with apnea disorders. Most people snore at one point or another. Physical causes of snoring include a deviated septum, hypertrophy of the adenoids, swollen tonsils, tongue enlargement and a small oropharynx. Colds and allergies also cause snoring. Snoring alone is not indicative of a sleep disorder, but snoring can keep other people awake.
Movement disorders interrupt sleep patterns and the ability of the body to achieve the different stages sleep because physically they are moving or acting. The physical action may wake them up or prevent them from sleeping. The most well known movement sleep disorder is restless legs syndrome (RLS). RLS causes an irresistible urge to shift or move the legs. People who experience RLS complain of a creepy, crawly or pins and needles sensation. RLS patients often suffer from periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD) which causes sudden jerking of the arms or legs while sleeping. Occasionally a person’s leg or arm will twitch as their muscles relax, but PLMD causes persistent and involuntary motions that can jerk them awake. Bruxism is the grinding or clenching of the teeth while a person is sleeping. The disorder can cause dental problems, headaches and general soreness of the jaw. Somnambulism is another movement disorder that is neurological in nature. Sleepwalking can cause a person to get up and engage in day to day activities without any knowledge of what they are doing. Sleepwalkers experience unexplained injuries and physical tiredness related to not resting properly. The last sleep movement disorder involves a lack of movement or sleep paralysis. The paralysis affects the physical body temporarily just before falling asleep or upon waking. A person with sleep paralysis usually experiences visual, tactile or auditory hallucinations and are usually suffering from narcolepsy. Narcolepsy is a disorder where a person falls asleep suddenly and inexplicable, during normal waking hours.
Other Sleep Disorders
Other sleep disorders that affect people include rapid eye movement behavior disorder (RBD), delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS), night terrors, parasomnia and situational circadian rhythm sleep disorder. RBD causes patients to act out their dramatic or violent dreams while sleeping. For example, a person dreaming about punching a monster in a bad dream may physically lash out with a first. Night terrors are different from nightmares in that they cause severe, abrupt arousal from sleep experience terror. A child who experiences night terrors may wake screaming and unable to accept comfort. Many patients who experience night terrors do not remember them upon waking, but do experience daytime sleepiness and stress associated with the physical terror response. Night terrors are considered a parasomnia as is sleep walking and talking during sleep. DSPS involves an abnormal circadian rhythm. The natural circadian rhythm involves waking in daylight hours and sleeping at night. A person with DSPS experiences difficulty sleeping at night and being awake during the day. A natural recourse for DSPS patients is to work off hours in order to facilitate their career with their waking hours. Situational circadian rhythm sleep disorder is different in that it is experienced by individuals with a normal circadian rhythm who are impacted by external, environmental factors. A person working third shift regularly who struggles to stay awake when they want to sleep.
Identifying Sleep Disorders
If a person suspects they are suffering from a sleep disorder, it is important to bring the information to the attention of a physician. Everyone experiences an occasional sleepless night, but persistent daytime sleepiness, difficulty sleeping or snoring may indicate a sleep disorder.