- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
Sleep Disorders and Sleep Problems:When to call the Doctor
When Sleep Still Eludes You
What's the Difference?
Still having trouble sleeping? You have, no doubt tried the easier more common sleepy-time solutions, as mentioned in my first Hub - Sleep Health but for some reason you are still not getting the quality rest that you need. You may have a Sleep Disorder, also know as "somnipathy". Many of the symptoms that you experience may be the same however a sleep disorder should not be confused with occasional sleeplessness. Almost all of us have experienced a sleepless night now and then but a sleep disorder is a more chronic problem that lasts weeks, months and sometimes even years. It has a significant impact on your day-to-day functioning, affecting your performance at work, your moods, ability to concentrate and retain information and your relationships with family and friends. A test that is commonly ordered for some sleep disorders is "polysomnography".
There are about 70 or 80 different sleep disorders, that are usually classified into one of three or more categories, Here are some of the more common ones:
1. Lack of sleep - Insomnia, the most common sleep problem, can be either short or long term and signifies a lack of sleep
3. Excessive Sleep- Narcolepsy is relatively well known and clearly demonstrates excessive sleep
As defined previously, insomnia is the inability to fall asleep and covers a wide array of potential causes: diet, emotional difficulties, stress, underlying disease and other factors. For short term insomnia you can practice some of the awareness and coping techniques mentioned in Sleep Health. For long term insomnia however you may need to consult a your physician or sleep professional. Left untreated, inadequate sleep can affect judgment, reaction-time, hand-eye coordination, memory, the immune system and general well-being.
Sleep Apnea, Just one of many sleep disorders
Sleep Apnea falls into the disturbed sleep category because those who suffer from it rarely experience a healthy night of sleep. It usually occurs because of a mechanical problem in the windpipe, but it also can indicate a neurological disorder involving nerve cells. In either case, it typically results in loud snoring and blocked air flow through the windpipe that lasts from 10 to 60 seconds. It may appear that the person is gasping or snorting because they are quite literally unable to get enough oxygen to breathe. People that suffer from sleep apnea are not able to obtain quality sleep because every time the windpipe closes, the person has to wake up enough to contract those muscles and resume breathing. As a result, the sleep cycle can be interrupted as many as 100 times a night.
REM Sleep Behavior Disorder causes disruptions in the brain during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and although relatively rare, it is also considered disturbed sleep. During REM, sometimes referred to as the deeper or dream phase of sleep, an area of the brain-stem called the pons sends signals to the cerebral cortex, which is the area of the brain responsible for thinking and organizing information. The pons also sends signals to muscles in the body during REM, causing a type of temporary paralysis. This obviously interrupts that important deeper phase of sleep leaving one tired and sleep-deprived.
RLS or Restless Leg Syndrome and Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD) are common sleep disorders, especially in the elderly. Symptoms include a tingling sensation that causes patients to want to move their legs, resulting in discomfort and of course, insomnia. PLMD causes rapid jerking or twitching of legs and arms which occurs during resting or sleeping. The jerking happens as often as 3 times per minute and each jerk can and usually does wake the person, disrupting any chance of quality sleep.
More Information on Sleep Disorders
Narcolepsy is an excessive sleep condition that causes patients to fall asleep uncontrollably throughout the day for periods lasting less than a minute to more than half an hour. Because this condition usually develops between 15 - 30 years of age, I remember telling my Mother as a teen that I must have Narcolepsy when I was too tired to go to school. I was never successful in my futile attempt to skip class however, the threat of a Doctor's examine usually nipped this little game in the bud. These sleep attacks can be quite serious and can occur at anytime, even while the person is engaged in an activity. During sleep, narcoleptics have an abnormal sleep pattern: They enter REM sleep prematurely without going through the normal sequence of sleep stages.
Cataplexyis weakness or paralysis of the muscles. In narcoleptic patients, it may be triggered by fatigue and intense sress or emotion, accompanied by short, sudden episodes of laughing or anger. When cataplexy occurs, persons who are standing may even fall down.
Sleep Paralysis is the inability to move the arms, legs, or the entire body and it occurs when a person is falling asleep or waking up. It usually lasts a for a very short period of time. People who experience sleep paralysis may become very anxious and often regain movement only if they hear a loud noise or another stimulus of some sort.
Hypnagogic Hallucinationsor pre-sleep dreams, are dream-like hallucinations that occur in the transition stage, between being awake and being asleep. Often, they are very vivid, frightening dreams.
10 Questions to ask your Doctor
Do I have a sleeping disorder? If so, what kind?
Is my insomnia caused be an underlying medical or psychiatric illness?
Could I have sleep apnea?
Will I need to use a CPAP Machine to help me breathe?
Could any of my medications be causing sleeping problems?
If so, is it possible to change the medication or dosage?
How can I avoid becoming dependant on sleeping medication?
What other side effects can I expect from sleeping medications?
Should I see a specialist?
Are there relaxation or other therapies that could help me sleep?
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© 2011 Kathy