What is a sleep disorder?
A variety of sleep disorders affect millions of people each year. A husband who chronically snores is just as likely to have a disorder as child who hasn’t slept in days. Often, patients are unaware they have a sleeping disorder. Common sleep disorders include insomnia, sleep apnea, narcolepsy and restless leg syndrome.
Common Sleep Disorders
Insomnia occurs when you cannot fall asleep or stay asleep. We all occasionally have trouble sleeping, but insomnia means a chronic lack of sleep. This is most noticeable if sleep has been difficult for more than a month, or if it begins to disrupt daily life.
Narcolepsy causes the patient to fall asleep uncontrollably and unexpectedly many times a day. This can be embarrassing and dangerous. Symptoms can include muscle weakness during times of laughter or emotional distress, and/or momentary paralysis just before or after sleep.
Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)
Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is a neurological disorder characterized by uncomfortable leg sensations that usually occur at rest or before sleep. People with RLS often take longer to fall asleep, wake up more often and have a significant reduction in sleep time.
Often accompanying RLS are Periodic Limb Movements (PLMs)—involuntary, repetitive limb movements during sleep. PLM can also lead to insomnia and/or excessive daytime sleepiness.
Sleep Apnea means breathing actually stops for a brief period during sleep. This lack of oxygen wakes up the patient. Sleeping then resumes. Chronic loud snoring, often followed by gasping are common with sleep apnea.
Is it time for a Sleep Study?
Any one of these sleep disorders can—and do—cause sleep deprivation. As a result, you may experience one or a combination of the following symptoms:
- More frequent illness
- Irritability or personality change
- Impaired concentration and memory
- Reduced attention span
- Loss of productivity
While some of these symptoms may be tolerated without medical treatment, they can be potentially dangerous. Drowsy drivers are a main cause of motor vehicle and on-the-job accidents. Sleep apnea can also contribute to stroke, heart problems and high blood pressure.
Sleep disorders can often be corrected by making simple lifestyle changes. However, if you have tried to improve your sleep without success and are experiencing any one or combination of the above symptoms, it may be time to see your physician about a sleep study.