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What You Should Know about Sleep Disorders

Updated on November 10, 2014

The Statistics

Did you know that there are more than 80 different sleep disorders? More than 40% of Americans suffer from a sleep disorder of some degree. The average adult requires 8 hours of sleep yet many barely achieve more than 6 hours each night.

Types of Sleep Disorders

There are more than 80 different sleep disorders. It's exhausting just to think about it. This hub will focus on the following: insomnia, narcolepsy, and sleep apnea.


Insomnia is the most prevalent of the common sleep disorders. 70 million people suffer from insomnia annually. It is defined as the inability to fall asleep, remain asleep or a combination of both experiences. Individuals with insomnia often do not feel as though they achieved a night of quality sleep.

Consider the following metrics: Someone with insomnia make take 30 minutes or more to fall asleep. In addition they may only achieve six hours or less of sleep for three or more nights a week over a month or more

Symptoms of insomnia may include but are not limited to the following:

  • Staying awake for most of the night
  • Unintentionally waking up too early (several hours before your established schedule)
  • Lying awake for an extended period of time before falling asleep
  • Tension headaches
  • Feeling tired or sleepy during daylight hours
  • Feelings of anxiety or depression

Treatment varies but may include medication and/or behavioral therapy.


Narcolepsy results when the brain is unable to control the sleep-wake cycle which leads those affected to experience extreme sleepiness during daylight hours.

Researchers estimate that more than 350,000 individuals suffer from narcolepsy but only 50,000 are diagnosed annually (

These individuals, much like others who suffer from a sleep disorder, experience a poor quality of sleep which is a result of them not spending a lot of time in deep sleep. They awaken frequently during the night hours. Narcolepsy, sometimes referred to as "sleep attacks" can occur at any time and often during times that are unexpected. They are reported to not last long, perhaps no ore than a few seconds.

Symptoms of narcolepsy may include:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Hallucinations
  • Sleep Paralysis

Excessive Daytime Sleepiness

People who suffer from excessive daytime sleepiness often report feeling foggy in the head, have little to no energy and see changes in their mood to the point of depression.


Hallucinations may materialize in the form of vivid dreaming or frightening visions and sounds experienced while falling asleep or upon awakening. These hallucinations may consist of seeing human figures or human faces in an abstract fashion such as without a head or without a face. Some people see animals. They can take up the span of the room in which the individual lays paralyzed.

Sleep Paralysis

Sleep paralysis occurs during a period of sudden wakefulness or vivid dreaming in which the muscles in the body are not yet fully awake or they may feel weak (cataplexy), similar to a paralysis state. Someone in a sleep paralysis state is unable to move the muscles in their body or are only able to manage small muscle jerks and they are unable to speak for an unspecified period of time. This creates a sense of panic for a person in this state.

Treatment of narcolepsy varies but may include medication coupled with lifestyle changes pertaining to diet and sleep patterns.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea occurs when one stops breathing or to breathe in shallow breaths, lasting from 10–120 seconds at a time during sleep. These pauses can take place as frequently as 30 times or more in a single hour.

There are three types of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, and complex sleep apnea.

Treatment of sleep apnea varies but may range from continuous positive airway pressure to surgery.

Restless Leg Syndrome

Experts estimate that approximately 20 million people suffers from Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) with the incidence of occurrence being twice as high in women than men. People with RLS report feeling sensations in their legs which makes them want to move their legs to achieve comfort or relief.

Treatment of RLS may include lifestyle changes in diet, exercise and other forms of alternative therapies.

Risk Factors Associated with Sleep Disorders

The sleep disorders mentioned in this hub can have an effect on your overall health. Those who suffer from sleep disorders are at an increased risk for the following:

  • Diabetes
  • Stroke
  • Heart disease
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

If you suspect that you or someone in your family is suffering from a sleep disorder, you should immediately seek medical advice and/or treatment.

© 2014 Mahogany Speaks


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