Five major Sleep disorders

Five Major Sleep Disorders

What is Sleep?

A state of mind and body characterized by altered consciousness, inhibited sensory activity, reduced muscular activity, and inhibition of voluntary functions along with reduced interaction with the surroundings is known as sleep. When a person is asleep, all the necessary bodily tasks are carried out by the autonomous nervous system. The main organs, such as the heart, brain, kidneys, lungs, etc.; continue to work while the sympathetic nervous system and the musculoskeletal system take a back seat. Sleeping is vital for the human body, as it gives the body the necessary rest to rejuvenate and revitalize all its organs and systems.

An average human need around eight to nine hours of proper sleep every night to keep their mind and body healthy and its’ functions premium, but this may vary from person to person. The quality of sleep is as essential as the quantity. Restlessness, stress, and tossing and turning all night can lead to a lack of sleep which can cause severe alterations in physical and mental health, logical thinking, and cognitive functions.

When you’re unable to sleep due to stress, excitement, grief, or any other emotional trauma, that is mostly temporary and can subside with time and care but if it persists then there is most likely a sleep disorder.

Signs that indicate you have a sleep disorder

The symptoms of sleep disorders vary with the specificity of the disorder. Some of the earliest signs that indicate you may have a sleep disorder includes:

  • It takes more than 30 minutes each night for you to fall asleep.
  • You wake up suddenly in the middle of the night several times and have trouble falling back to sleep.
  • During the day, you often feel sleepy and end up taking naps at irregular time intervals.
  • While asleep, you snore loudly, and sometimes snort, gasp, choke, or stop breathing for short periods.
  • You feel creeping, tingling, or crawling sensation in your arms or legs that is relieved by moving or massaging them.
  • Your limbs often jerk during sleep.
  • You have vivid, dream-like experiences and even while asleep you are partially or completely aware of your surroundings.
  • Whenever you’re angry, fearful, or ecstatic, you feel sudden bouts of muscle weakness and lose control of your limbs.
  • You feel paralyzed when you first wake up.
  • You’re mostly lethargic.

While there are a lot of medical conditions that can be classified as sleep disorders, here we will look at the most common ones. These include:

  1. Insomnia:

One of the most commonly occurring sleep disorders is insomnia. Individuals with insomnia have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep for longer periods, or getting enough peaceful sleep. At first, it causes fatigue, sleepiness, mood swings, lack of concentration, work problems, etc. but, with time this may lead to various health problems such as Diabetes, Hypertension, Obesity, etc. Insomnia can be acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term). Its onset can be at random, sometimes due to any medical condition or unfavorable effect of a treatment.

Acute or short-term insomnia can occur due to typical life stresses such as loss of job or change of authority, death of a loved one, or moving to a new vicinity, an illness, or environmental factors such as light, noise, bad weather, or extreme temperatures.

Meanwhile, long-term, or chronic insomnia (occurs at least three nights a week for at least three months or longer) can occur due to triggering factors such as depression, chronic stress, and pain or discomfort at night. Another common cause of chronic insomnia is overthinking (e.g., “What if I couldn’t fall asleep tonight?”) and behaviors that develop around the sleep problem (e.g., sleeping in and napping, contemplating in bed, staying up late) tend to prolong insomnia symptoms.

  •  Sleep Apnea:

One of the serious sleep disorders in which a person has difficulty breathing or at times stops breathing during their sleep. This results in interruption of sleep several times and the inability to sleep through the night. If left untreated, this may cause severe problems and sometimes can even be fatal. The major signs and symptoms include loud snoring, gasping for air, choking in sleep, frequent morning headaches, waking up with a dry mouth, insomnia, daytime sleepiness, irritability, lack of concentration, etc. Sleep apnea is categorized into two types, these are:

•          Obstructive Sleep Apnea:  When the muscles at the back of your throat relax, the airway passage narrows or sometimes shuts off completely resulting in depletion of oxygen in your system. Your brain senses this decline and wakes up briefly to reopen the airway. This usually happens so quickly that you don’t remember it. You may snort, choke or gasp often after a few minutes every hour which leads to a lack of proper deep sleep. Obesity, thick neck, smoking, nasal congestion, old age, family history, etc. are some of the factors that increase your risk of being prone to obstructive sleep apnea.

•          Central Sleep Apnea: When the airway is wide open, but the brain fails to transmit the necessary signals to your skeletal muscles that allow them to continue the breathing mechanism. As a result, you simply stop making any effort for a certain period to breathe at all and later awaken gasping several times during the night due to shortness of breath. This form of sleep apnea occurs more commonly in older individuals, males, narcotic users, heart patients, and people who have had a stroke before or any other brain-damaging disease.

  • Restless leg syndrome:

As indicated by the name, a sleep disorder in which there is a severe irresistible urge to move the legs. It usually occurs while lying down in bed, sitting for longer periods, or staying/ resting in a certain position. This typically occurs in the evening, making it difficult to sleep peacefully. As a result, people suffering from this have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep leading to problems such as daytime sleepiness, irritability, and poor cognitive function. Often such people walk around all night, jostling their legs to reduce the uneasy sensation. This can sometimes be coupled with twitching and kicking of the leg during sleep. People with RLS experience crawling, creeping, pulling, throbbing, aching, or tingling sensations. It differs from muscle cramps or numbness because it is persistent.

There aren’t any definitely known causes for RLS, but the most common cause is hereditary or pregnancy. While the familial RLS usually starts before 40 and is usually continuous, the pregnancy RLS is temporary and usually subsides after delivery. The severity of symptoms may vary from one individual to another. In some cases, there are even episodes of complete absenteeism of symptoms, and then suddenly they reappear. 

  • Narcolepsy:

Narcolepsy is a chronic sleep disorder in which a person experiences excessive daytime sleepiness and has little to no control over their sleep or wakefulness. It can provoke severe disturbances in your daily life. These sudden sleep attacks may occur any time of the day, during any activity. Some even experience muscle weakness, uncontrollable fits of laughter, or hysterical crying. Narcolepsy usually begins during the ages of 15 to 25 but can become evident at any age. Mostly, it goes undetected and is therefore left untreated. Sometimes it can lead to loss of muscle tone (cataplexy) which is usually triggered by a strong emotion. When Narcolepsy occurs with Cataplexy it is known as Type I Narcolepsy and without Cataplexy is known as Type II Narcolepsy. Sleep Paralysis, hallucinations, and changes in REM (rapid eye movement) are some advanced symptoms of this disease. Though there is no cure, symptoms of Narcolepsy can be managed through medication and lifestyle changes. Despite that, the complications arising from the disease are quite serious such as professional incompetence, compromise in intimate relationships, physical harm to yourself or others, obesity, etc.

  • Parasomnias:

Parasomnias are a class of sleep disorders that involves any kind of abnormal behavior, actions, movements, perceptions, and gestures during sleep. Some of the basic symptoms of parasomnia are:

  • Awakening in the middle of the sleep cycle with confusion and disorientation of time and space.
  • Sleepwalking or arousal with other complex mobile functions such as running, talking, or eating
  • Sleep Paralysis
  • Night terrors
  • Bedwetting
  • Nightmares
  • Grinding of teeth repeatedly during sleep
  • Waking up with injuries over your body without any recollection of its’ origin

There can be a lot of causes for Parasomnia such as Jet lag, long working hours, medications (to treat depression, psychosis, or other neurological disorders) that interfere with your sleep, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, High blood pressure, Asthma, Sleep Apnea, RLS, Narcolepsy, stress, anxiety, loss of loved ones, etc. In children, this usually occurs due to immaturity of the sleep-wake cycle. Other generic causes include a severe head injury, Stroke, Pregnancy, Autoimmune diseases, and serious neurological diseases (Dementia, Parkinson’s Disease, brain tumors, etc.).

Diagnosis of Sleep Disorders

For diagnoses, a health care provider would require a complete medical history, physical exam, and observing your sleep pattern, which can be accomplished by participating in a sleep study (polysomnogram). It basically monitors and analyzes data about your body while you sleep. The observations may include:

Brain wave changes

Eye movements

Breathing rate

Blood pressure

Heartbeat and electrical conductivity of the smooth muscles

Other kinds of sleep studies may track how fast you fall asleep or how vigilant you are during the day and between certain activities. At Vivid, we have a cohesive sleep study to monitor, record, and analyze patients with abnormal sleep patterns and with the help of neurological tests and assessment, conclude if there’s an underlying disorder present, so they can be treated accordingly.