common sleep disorders

Sleep Apnea - is a serious, potentially life-threatening condition that is far more common than is generally understood. It is a breathing disorder characterized by brief interruptions of breathing during sleep.

There are two types of sleep apnea: central and obstructive. Central sleep apnea is less common than obstructive sleep apnea and occurs when the brain fails to send the appropriate signals to the breathing muscles to initiate respirations.

Obstructive sleep apnea is a far more common type of sleep apnea. It occurs when air cannot flow in or out of an individual's nose or mouth, although efforts to breathe continue. In a given night, the number of involuntary breathing pauses may be as high as 20-60 per hour. These breathing pauses almost always are accompanied by snoring between apnea episodes, although not everyone who snores has this condition.

Sleep apnea can also be characterized by choking sensations. The frequent interruptions of deep, restorative sleep often lead to excessive daytime sleepiness and may be associated with an early morning headache.

Early recognition and treatment of sleep apnea is important because it may be associated with irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.

Narcolepsy - a chronic disorder that involves the body's central nervous system. People with narcolepsy do not receive correct messages from the brain about when to sleep and when to be awake. This is why someone who has narcolepsy, not managed by medications, may fall asleep while eating dinner or engaged in social activities.

About one in 2,000 people suffers from narcolepsy. It affects both men and women of any age, but its symptoms are usually noticed after puberty begins. For the majority of persons with narcolepsy, their first symptoms appear between the ages of 15 and 30.

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) - Individuals who think they may have RLS may recognize these symptoms:

  • An urge to move the legs, often accompanied by uncomfortable sensations usually described as a creeping or crawling feeling, tingling, cramping, burning or pain. Some patients have no definite sensation, except for the need to move.

  • The need to stretch or bend legs to relieve the discomfort.

  • Rubbing the legs, tossing or turning in bed, or getting up and pacing the floor.

  • A definite worsening of the discomfort when lying down, especially when trying to fall asleep at night, or during other forms of inactivity.

Sleep disturbances are common with RLS and are a major effect. The sleep disturbances can range from mild to severe.

Insomnia - the perception of poor-quality sleep due to difficulty falling asleep, waking up during the night with difficulty returning to sleep, waking up too early in the morning or unrefreshing sleep. Stress is considered the primary cause of short-term sleeping difficulties. Common triggers include school- or job-related pressures, family problems or a serious illness or death in the family. Usually the sleep problem disappears when the stressful situation passes. However, if short-term sleep problems, such as insomnia, aren't managed properly from the beginning they can persist long after the original stress has passed.

It's a good idea to speak to a physician about any sleeping problem that recurs or persists for longer than one week.  Your doctor can help you take steps early to control or prevent poor sleep. Since insomnia can also be brought on by depression, evaluation by a healthcare professional is essential.

For more information about sleep disorders, call the OLBH Sleep Lab at 606-833-3993.

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