Sleeping peacefully

Major Sleep Disorders

Sleep disorders can be defined as conditions that prevent one from getting enough good sleep as they should. Not only can sleep disorders affect your quality of life and performance, but also your overall health. A vast knowledge about such disorders is vital; one should fully understand each condition in order to seek medical attention immediately they suspect of it.
How common are sleep disorders?

Everyone loves a good night’s sleep. Even though, several factors are hindering a peaceful night’s rest. Sleep disorder conditions prevent one from having a quiet and pleasant night’s rest resulting in overall sleep dysfunction and daytime sleepiness.

Research has shown that almost 70 percent of adults have one or two major sleep disorders. Whether it is an occasional sleep difficulty or a diagnosed sleep disorder, the bottom line is that you can learn to manage your symptoms and get quality sleep.

The most common way of diagnosing a sleep disorder is by paying attention to the signs and symptoms.

It is important to talk to your doctor about the symptoms you are having, in instances where you think you could be having a sleep disorder. A doctor can do a physical exam on you to help in identifying the sleep disorder that you could be suffering from.

Apart from a physical exam, your doctor may also use a component of electrical transmissions to record activities of a physical nature while you are sleeping. A sleep study may be done at home even though this is not very common. The results from the sleep study are then analyzed by a physician to help you determine whether or not you are suffering from a sleep disorder.

In most instances, cases of sleep disorders are referred to special clinics called sleep disorder clinics. Sleep specialists help analyze your symptoms and come up with a management solution. Use of weighted blankets, for example, is one way of managing some of the major or minor disorders.

In this article we have listed five major sleep disorders and their symptoms to help you identify problems so you may seek help.

1. Insomnia Insomnia

Let’s get real; research has shown that at least 50 percent of adults experience insomnia at least once a week. Insomnia is simply difficulty in falling sleep. Here are the typical symptoms of people with insomnia:

  • Repeated difficulty in falling asleep
  • Night wakes ups and lack of falling back into sleep
  • Early morning waking up
  • Depression and forgetfulness
  • Occasional daytime sleepiness, fatigue, lack of concentration as a result of lack of enough sleep

Of the 50 percent that experience insomnia, at least 1 in 12 suffers from chronic insomnia.

This condition may occur on its own or together with other psychiatric conditions. It could also occur as acute insomnia (shortly) or last for a long time (chronic insomnia). An acute case of insomnia may last from a few days to a few weeks, at that point it would be considered  chronic insomnia.  Lack of sleep more than three nights within a month’s time can be classified as a chronic condition.

2. Sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is a quite a severe sleep disorder. It occurs when one’s breathing pattern is suddenly interrupted during sleep. One may stop repeatedly breathing if their apnea goes undiagnosed or untreated. Sleep apnea is divided into two categories:

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA)

This is the most common type of apnea sleep disorder. It occurs when the airway is usually blocked by a soft tissue at the back of one’s throat. The common result of this is snoring, fatigue, headache, gasping for air while asleep and difficulty in paying attention at school or work.

Central sleep apnea (CSA)

We all know that the brain controls all the involuntary activities of the body. In the case of sleep apnea, the brain fails to initiate the breathing mechanism at some point during sleep. One may gasp for air until they are fully awake in the middle of the night.

3. Restlessness leg syndrome

Restlessness leg syndrome is another disorder that leads to powerful movement of legs during sleep. The sensation usually occurs after activities such as prolonged driving. Restless leg syndrome (RLS) usually occurs during evenings, which makes it difficult for one to sleep fully. The most common signs include:

  • Irritability
  • Sleepiness during daytime
  • Lack of concentration

In most cases, the sensation is so irritating that the majority of  people with RLS often walk around to help ease the discomfort in the lower limbs. Sleep loss is the common side effect of RSL.

4. Narcolepsy

With the onset of from 15-25 years, Narcolepsy is one of the major sleep disorders affecting 1 in 2000 people. This disorder involves disturbed sleep regulation, which in the end, affects your sleep and wakefulness pattern.

When one has narcolepsy, they experience excessive daytime sleepiness and uncontrollable events of falling asleep during daytime hours. During a narcolepsy attack, one may experience excessive daytime sleepiness.

This is the most common symptom of narcolepsy. It usually appears from the age of 12-20 years. Excessive daytime sleepiness is characterized by constant sleeplessness and involuntary events from falling asleep. The sleep attacks may last from several seconds to minutes. Those with EDS describe it as a mental cloudiness, lack of normal energy to concentrate, depression, and exhaustion.

Here are some other symptoms associated with narcolepsy:

  • Cataplexy- In catalepsy, there is an involuntary inability to speak or move muscles during sleep or when waking up. This symptom is often triggered by intense emotions such as fear or depression. Cataplexy may occur in severity ranging from loss of muscle movements, inability to speak or even drooping of eyelids. One may be fully aware of the cataplexy attacks but in most instances is unable to speak or move.
  • Sleep paralysis- Sleep paralysis occurs when there is an inability to move or speak when one is waking up or simply falling sleep. The voluntary muscles are usually paralyzed, this means that one is unable to act out of their dream. Sleep paralysis does not last long, usually some seconds and one is back to normal.
  • Hallucinations- Those who suffer from narcolepsy may experience hallucinations during their waking up time or during their sleep onset. In most cases, such illusions are quite scary.
  • Disturbed nocturnal sleep- One of the most common problems faced by individuals with narcolepsy is fragmented sleep. Not only do these people have difficulties staying fully awake during the day, but they also have troubles sleeping at night.

5. Snoring

We all hate snoring. Snoring is a sound that is emitted as a result of turbulent airflow which causes the tissues of the nose and those of the throat to vibrate. In most cases, snoring occurs as a result of narrowing of the airway.

Causes of snoring include:

  • Obstructed airway- Deformities that change the structure of the nostril may cause severe airway obstruction. Additionally, allergies and sinus infections may also cause serious snoring.
  • Excessive throat tongue muscle relaxation- When muscles of the throat and the tongue lose their elasticity, they fall back and block the airway. Most causes of muscle relaxation include alcohol consumption, use of sleeping pills and the aging process.
  • Large throat tissue- Being overweight is the main predisposing factor to overgrown throat tissue. Additionally, significant tonsils and adenoids may lead to snoring.
  • Elongated soft palate- The uvula is the term used to refer to the long soft tissue at the back of the mouth. When the uvula is over elongated, it may hinder the opening of the nose to the throat. In case the two structures vibrate, the airway gets obstructed hence snoring.


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Key sleep disorders (December 2014)

Sleep disorders (May 2015)