SLEEP DISORDERS 101
If you are not getting enough sleep (between 7 and 9 hours every night for all adults), please talk to your doctor as soon as possible. Insufficient sleep, restricted sleep and/or sleep deprivation, whether voluntary or involuntary, and whether it is caused by other sleep problems, other health problems, or is itself a primary health problem, is a major cause of public safety problems like vehicle accidents, physical accidents and falls, dangerous mistakes in judgment on the job and poor cognitive response in emergency situations.
Sleep deprivation also has a negative impact on many important executive functions such as learning, memory, and articulation. This can lead to the dangerous miscommunication of critical information, failure to perform in an academic setting, and/or an impaired ability to easily recall words, ideas, or important details necessary to the functional activities of daily living. Finally, sleep deprivation, if left untreated, sets up a physiological imbalance that endangers your health by making your body more prone to chronic health conditions, such as diabetes, dementia, heart disease, vascular disease, mood disorders, stroke, metabolic disease, obesity, and immune system disorders.
One of the biggest sleep issues we have is not getting enough sleep, especially the deep stages of sleep our body and brain both require to function optimally. As many as 50 percent of the entire population experiences regular bouts of insomnia. This can be experienced as trouble falling asleep and trouble staying asleep, or both, despite good opportunities for sleep. It can also be identified as having “sleep state misperception,” a common situation in which you may feel like you haven’t slept at all despite objective evidence to the contrary. Having occasional insomnia is normal, but chronic long-term insomnia can be dangerous for public safety and long-term health.
Sleep Breathing Disorders
These include many kinds of problems related to getting enough oxygen while sleeping at night, such as:
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea || OSA (a mechanical disorder of the upper airway)
- Central Sleep Apnea || CSA (various problems with brain function related to sleep drive and maintenance)
- Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome || UARS (due to issues like crowded airways, allergies, deviated septums, swollen turbinates, etc.)
- Hypoventilation problems related to existing respiratory issues such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD], asthma, pneumothorax, or hypoventilation caused by high altitude, etc)
- Neuromuscular disorders, which can impact the body’s ability to breathe properly (scoliosis, or myasthenia gravis)
Also known as hypersomnolence, these less common primary sleep disorders leave patients excessively sleepy during the daytime to the extent that they can no longer function normally. These disorders include:
- Idiopathic Hypersomnia
- Narcolepsy with or without Cataplexy
- Klein-Levin Syndrome (“Sleeping Beauty syndrome”)
Hypersomnia may also be a sleep disorder secondary to many other health problems; it can, in fact, mimic other much more critical chronic illnesses.
Circadian Rhythm Disorders
The human body, like all living things, matches its life cycles to the rhythms of the earth, moon, and sun. Plants, animals, and humans all respond to daylight and evening in a rhythmic, circadian fashion. Disorders of these natural rhythms include:
- Jet Lag
- Shift Work Disorder (for people who work nights or varying day and night shifts which disrupt their ability to realign with the earth’s natural rhythms)
- Disorders of sleep phase (falling asleep earlier or later than normal) including Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder || ASPD and Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder || DSPD
- Non-24-hour or Free-Running Sleep-Wake Disorder (in which sleep patterns do not hold to a regular cycle; this is typical mostly for the blind)
- Irregular Sleep-Wake Disorder (in which sleep patterns are completely chaotic and do not follow a healthy pattern)
These are sleep behaviors that involve disorders of arousal—abnormal dreaming behavior or unusual perceptions or misperceptions that occur while falling asleep, while sleeping, during transitions between REM and nonREM sleep stages, or during arousal from sleep. They include:
- Confusional Arousals (“sleep drunkenness”)
- Sleepwalking (aka somnambulism)
- Night Terrors
- Nightmare Disorder
- Sleep Sex Disorder
- Sleep-related Eating Disorder
- REM Behavior Disorder || RBD
- Recurrent Isolated Sleep Paralysis
- Sleep Enuresis (bedwetting)
- Catathrenia (sleep groaning)
These include involuntary body movements that can make it difficult to stay asleep or to achieve deep sleep, including:
- Restless Leg Syndrome
- Periodic Limb Movement Disorder
- Nocturnal Leg Cramps
- Sleep-related Epilepsy
- Teeth Grinding (bruxism)
- Rhythmic Movements of Sleep (head banging or rocking while asleep)
Other Sleep Disorders or Behaviors
Some of the most common of these include snoring, “long sleeping” (someone who best functions on more than 8 hours a night), “short sleeping” (someone who best functions on less than 8 hours of sleep), hypnic jerks (aka sleep starts), sleeptalking, sleep-related seizures, and environmentally related problems with sleep (i.e. poor sleep hygiene).
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