10 Common Types of Sleep Disorders and How to Identify Them
Sleep disorder is a layman term used to describe any trouble with sleeping or staying asleep. Sleeping disorders are ubiquitous and people may experience disruption in sleep due to a number of medical conditions and physical or psychological factors.
Some of the common types of sleep disorders are:
Possibly the most common sleeping disorder, snoring refers to the difficulty in keeping the throat open during sleep. As the throat muscles relax, they close the narrow and eventually close the airway. Snoring the sound the air maikes as it tries to squeeze in through the closing airway.
So, is snoring bad?
While snoring is not considered a medical condition in itself, it can be an indicator of a bigger underlying disorder—sleep apnea.
This refers to a medical condition where a person experiences intermittent cessation of breathing during sleep. These brief periods of stopped breathing, or apnea episodes, lead to reduction in oxygen level in the blood, causing a person’s body to be jerked awake.
The obstruction in breathing may be due to a blocked upper airway, known as Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). It can also be due to the failure of the brain to signal breathing, known as Central Sleep Apnea (CSA). In worst cases, it can lead to heart attack, stroke, or sudden death.
Treatments and therapies options like CPAP are available to treat this condition.
Insomnia is one of the most common sleep disorders and is characterized by an inability to sleep. People face difficulty in falling and staying asleep. They take a long time to fall asleep, or to get back to sleep if awakened during sleep. If the condition occurs thrice a week and continues for three months, it is called chronic insomnia and requires appropriate treatment, including intake of sleeping pills and cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBTI).
Prolonged sleep deprivation caused by insomnia can increase a person's risk of Alzheimer’s.
Restless Legs Syndrome
As the name suggests, this condition is marked by uncontrollable sensations in legs—such as pins and needles, or bugs crawling up the leg—with a pressing urge to move. The sensations usually subside with movement of the legs either through walking or stretching. There are many factors that can lead to RLS, the most prominent being anemia, pregnancy, and obesity. Medication and adequate intake of iron can help treat this condition.
Circadian Rhythm Disorders
When a person's biological clock (circadian rhythm) falls out of sync with the external environment, circadian rhythm disorders can set in. These are usually caused due to blindness or in people working in night shifts, or frequent travelers experiencing jet lag. These conditions can be treated with exposure to natural light at the correct time in order to restore the sync and normal sleep cycle.
This is a neurological disorder which affects a person's control over sleep and wakefulness. People experiencing excessive sleepiness during the day, cataplexy, sleep paralysis, and hypnagogic hallucinations are considered suffering from narcolepsy. People suffering from narcolepsy are at risk of falling asleep at inappropriate times—such as while driving—which can prove fatal. Treatment may include stimulants, antidepressants, and xyrem.
These disruptive sleep disorders manifest through abnormal sleep behavior including sleep walking, sleep sex, rapid eye movement, and so forth. These behaviors are goal-directed and occur while the person is still asleep. Parasomnias can occur due to a number of causes and can be treated through medicines such as melatonin.
This is a dangerous sleep disorder where a person is unable to move their body when waking up from sleep. The person is awake but temporarily unable to move or talk. This generally lasts for a few seconds to minutes.
Sleep paralysis happens when parts of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep occur while you're awake. And in many cases, it is a very occasional event that occurs in someone who is otherwise healthy. Hallucinations may accompany this condition. Treatment of sleep paralysis can be done through counseling and medication.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
The main characteristic of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) is prolonged fatigue that does not subside even after full rest. The condition worsens with any mental or physical activity and can lead to considerable impact on daily activities.
It can be caused due to viral infection, psychological stress, or a combination of factors, and is often difficult to diagnose. Currently, there is no cure for this, but treatment can relieve symptoms. Making lifestyle changes, sticking to a sleep routine, and practicing methods to conserve the patient’s energy can help treat this condition.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
This is a mood-related condition, which is often associated with depression or excessive sleep. It occurs when natural light fails to reach the suprachiasmatic nucleus in the brain, such as during winters. Its treatment may include light therapy (phototherapy), medications and psychotherapy.
SAD can also be developed for opposite patterns where the affected feel depressed in summers. In either case, symptoms may start out mild and become more severe as the season progresses. And if left untreated, can lead to serious complications.
Maintaining a healthy body, that is product and work at peak condition, is one of the key reasons why we sleep. So any sleep disorder, if untreated, will slowly but surely impact our health. While most of these stem from changing lifestyles and increasing stress, ignoring them can lead to major health challenges including hypertension, diabetes, obesity, depression and more.
People experiencing any of the symptoms of sleep disorder must seek evaluation by a qualified health provider. Timely intervention can prevent the problem from magnifying and increases the chances of complete recovery, leading to better health.
Most health providers inquire about the sleep issues a person faces. Therefore, it is a good idea to keep a sleep diary with details about the issues that a person faces. If anything abnormal is observed, the health provider can advise appropriate tests and investigation. You can also start by taking a Sleep Quiz, to figure out the issues with your sleep.