Sleep Conditions and Disorders
Excerpt from Secrets of a Good Night's Sleep
Copyright ©, All Rights Reserved Dream Essentials 2015
A sleeping disorder is defined as a medical condition that negatively impacts a human being’s sleep cycle or the ability to sleep. There are several types of sleeping disorders that affect people all over the globe and some of them are severe enough to affect the normal functioning of an individual.
Sleep abnormalities and disorders are classified mainly into 3 categories: parasomnias, dyssomnias, and circadian rhythm disorders. There are also other kinds of sleeping disorders caused due to physiological and psychological conditions.
According to the Center for Disease Control, about 50 to 70 million individuals in the US suffer from some form of sleeping disorder. Below is a list of some of the common sleep disorders that affect people.
1. Obstructive Sleep Apnea: Sleep Apnea is a common sleep disorder that is caused when the upper airway becomes obstructed. Symptoms include interrupted or paused breathing while sleeping. The interruptions are referred to as ‘apneas’ and last between 20 to 40 seconds. It occurs when there is a drop in blood-oxygen levels.
Individuals suffering from this sleep condition are usually unaware and are alerted to it by an external observer. In some cases, it is diagnosed when the individual suffers from other conditions that result from sleep apnea. There are various treatments to deal with sleep apnea. One of the most basic treatments is to avoid smoking and alcohol consumption. Sleep apnea is also very common in individuals who are obese or overweight; therefore, the treatment prescribed in this condition is weight loss.
Apart from these treatments, patients also undergo a procedure called ‘Continuous Positive Airway Pressure’ or ‘CPAP’. Here, a machine is used to pump air into the patient’s mouth or nose in a controlled manner.
Other treatments for sleep apnea include Nasal EPAP, where a bandage like device is attached over the nostrils to create airway pressure and remove the obstruction.
2. Insomnia: Insomnia is defined as a basic inability to sleep. It can result in severe mental and physical exhaustion if treatment is ignored. There are 3 kinds of Insomnia: Temporary, Short-Term, and Chronic.
Temporary insomnia occurs when a person is unable to sleep due to shift-based work schedules, temporary forms of depression, stress or anxiety, jet-lag, and physical disturbances etc.
Short-Term Insomnia can extend up to a few weeks and can resurface again after long gaps. It occurs mainly due to psychological issues such as anxiety or depression. Even emotional disturbances such as the loss of a loved one can result in short-term insomnia.
Chronic insomnia is a more long lasting form of Insomnia. If the person’s sleep is disturbed regularly for months or years, then the patient is said to be suffering from chronic insomnia. The causes of insomnia can be a combination of several other conditions such as sleep apnea, depression, anxiety, disturbed circadian rhythms, and dementia. Sometimes chronic insomnia can also occur without these factors and it is referred to as primary insomnia.
Insomnia is generally treated with medication such as steroids, painkillers, and beta-blockers. Apart from medication, even behavioral therapy is used to help insomnia patients.
3. Narcolepsy: It is a sleep disorder characterized by heavy daytime sleepiness and sudden sleep attacks. There is no known cause as such, but some experts believe that it may be caused due to a deficiency in hypocretin. Hypocretin is a chemical produced in the brain that regulates sleep and wake cycles.
Symptoms include loss of muscle control or cataplexy, extreme daytime sleepiness, sleep paralysis, and hallucinations. Narcolepsy can be treated with medication and lifestyle changes. Medications usually include anti-depressants, sodium oxybate, and stimulants.