Sleep disorders are caused by a variety of things, including hidden medical problems. Most sleep problems are annoying, but some sleep disorders can be life threatening. You should see your doctor if you experience the following sleep problems on a regular basis:
1. It takes more than 30 minutes for you to fall sleep most nights
2. You get up after sleeping for only a few hours and can not go back to sleep
3. You feel excessively sleepy or fatigued during normal wakeful hours, and your fatigue interferes with school or work
4. You get up feeling as tired as you did when you went to sleep, no matter how many hours you slept
5. You experience frequent memory lapses
6. You snore loud most nights
7. You wake up every morning with a headache or heartburn
8. You experience vivid dreams soon after falling asleep
9. You doze off atappropriate times (during a business meeting or while talking on the phone)
10. Your bed partner complains that you kick them at night
11. You awaken from a sound sleep screaming or trying to fight
Primary Sleep Disorders
There are four primary sleep disorders:
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea is a potentially life-threatening disorder. It's caused by a narrowing or collapse of the upper airway during sleep, this restrictions or advances breathing. Repeated collapsing of the airway through the night disruptions and fragments your sleep. It may produce hypoxemia and other cardiovascular stress.
Sleep apnea may contribute to myocardial ischemia (depriving the heart muscle of oxygen) and myocardial infarction (heart attack) in patients with coronary artery disease. Sleep apnea affects approximately four percent of middle-aged men and two percent of middle-aged women.
Symptoms of sleep apnea include chronic, loud snoring, gasping or choking during sleep, excessive daytime sleepiness, drowsiness while driving, personality changes or cognitive difficulties. Obesity, a thick neck, systemic hypotension and nasopharyngeal narrowing are also indicators of obstructive sleep apnea.
Patients with insomnia have trouble getting to sleep and remaining sleep. Insomnia is a widely known sleep complaint; approximately 30 percent of American adults report incidental insomnia and nearly 10 percent report chronic insomnia. Women report insomnia more than men and the problem seems to increase with age.
Insomnia varies according to the duration of the symptoms. Acute insomnia usually results from a stressful life event or a change in sleep environment or sleep schedule. Chronic insomnia may be caused by a medical condition, psychiatric disorder or other factors.
Restless Legs Syndrome and Periodic Limb Movements in Sleep
The symptoms of restless legs syndrome include sensations of creeping, crawling, pulling and tingling. This causes an irresistible urge to move your legs. These symptoms usually occur just before the sunset of sleep, making it difficult to fall sleep.
Patients with restless legs syndrome often have periodic limb movements in sleep. The limb movements are also associated with partial or complete awakening. The prevalence of this disorder increases with age, about one third of restless leg syndrome patients are over the age of 60.
Patients with restless legs syndrome and periodic limb movements in sleep may have problem sleepiness or non-refreshing sleep because of frequent awakenings that may not be remembered.
Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that produces severe problem sleepiness. Primary symptoms of narcolepsy are excessive and overwhelming daytime sleepiness, regardless of adequate nocturnal sleep. Narcolepsy is also characterized by cataplexy, sudden episodes of muscle weakness triggered by emotional reactions like laughter, anger or fear.
Other classic symptoms of narcolepsy include sleep paralysis (a temporary inability to talk or move on falling asleep or awakening) and hypnagogic hallucinations (vivid, frightening, dreamlike experiences that occur while doing or falling asleep).
Narcolepsy first becomes evident during adolescence, but it can also occur in children. An accurate narcolepsy diagnosis will require testing and evaluation by a sleep specialist.
Managing sleep disorders
For patients with sleep disorders, treatment options range from behavioral therapies to surgical interventions in some cases. Safe, natural and non-surgical treatments are available over the counter. Some of these include SNORenz and Good Night's Sleep, or a combo of the two called Sleepytime SNORenz. These highly effective blends offer a unique and non-invasive alternative to some of the harsher treatments out there.