What Are Sleep Disorders?
We have all been there when you are lying in bed and you are very tired and you are craving to get to sleep but for some reason or another, however hard you try, you simply cannot drift off to sleep. It seems the harder you try to nod off the more difficult it becomes to get a decent night’s sleep.
Did you know that the average amount of sleep an adult needs each night is between 7 and 9 hours per night? A child aged 3 to 5 needs between 10 and 13 hours, aged between 6 and 13 years they need between 9 and 11 hours and the typical 14 to 17-year-old needs 8 to 10 hours sleep each night.
According to research carried out by the American Sleep Association 50-70 million adults in the US have some kind of sleep disorder.
Sleep disorder is a medical condition that relates to your sleep or wake patterns, it can also be referred to as somnipathy. While it is fairly common for people to be unable to get to sleep, it becomes far more concerning when it interferes with how you live your life and impacts on your general health.
However, there are many sleep disorders that can have a negative effect on someone’s well-being. And that can cause problems in the way they go about their everyday life.
If someone is constantly tired through lack of sleep it can affect their physical health, mental health, social life. And even their ability to perform at work.
There are a number of wide ranging types of sleeping disorders. Below are listed the seven most common sleep deprivation conditions.
The 7 Most Common Conditions
There are two types of insomnia. They are referred to as primary and secondary. Primary insomnia is when someone’s sleeping pattern is not associated with a health condition of some sort or medication a person is taking. However, secondary insomnia is classed as being directly associated with a medical condition. Such as, chronic pain or COPD, which has an impact on a persons ability to sleep properly.
Sometimes it is not easy to identify a valid reason for this form of sleep disorder. A common cause of lack of sleep is that the person’s circadian rhythm has been interrupted. This can often happen to those who have travelled over different time zones or work night time shifts.
Also, the environment around us can be a big contributing factor to the way we sleep. Most people sleep more soundly in a cool, dark and quiet bedroom. If there is any noise, heat or light disruption it can add greatly to sleep problems.
Sleep Apnea is a breathing disorder which happens when someone is asleep. It manifests itself by repetitive pauses to a person’s breathing pattern when sleeping. The pauses can last for up to 10 seconds at a time several times per hour.
Having Sleep Apnea can cause the blood-oxygen levels to drop, which sends a signal to the individual’s brain which causes them to awaken by making a snorting sound or loud gasp.
Sleep Apnea is often related to snoring, pausing of breath when sleeping and general excessive sleepiness in the daytime, and is often seen as a chronic condition.
When the breathing appears to stop, the person will awaken from a deep sleep and go into a lighter sleeping pattern.
Most people who suffer from the condition can go years without having a diagnosis from a medical professional. There is no way for the medical professional to test for the condition as it will not show up on a blood test so can be very hard to detect. Often the individual is sent to a specialist sleep doctor for further examinations.
There is a less common form of the condition which goes by the term of CSA which is when the central part of the brain shuts down during sleep. This can be very serious as the individual actually stops breathing for a short period of time.
For many people sleepwalking can become a nightly occurrence. It is common for the person to get up from their sleep and sleepwalk. And then not have any recollection of how anything that happened during the episode when they wake properly. This can sometimes be a frightening experience for the person involved.
The person may find that they have performed tasks during sleepwalking like, unlocking a door, making something to eat or watering the plants in the garden.
Sleepwalking can also be referred to as parasomnia, which is a sleeping disorder that can bring on abnormal behavior or movement during sleep.
Stanford University School of Medicine conducted a study which found that around 4.8 million people in the US are prone to sleepwalking. The condition is more commonly found in young children. But they more often than not grow out of the behavior pattern by their teen years.
People are more prone to show signs of this behavior during the stage of non-REM, slow-wave sleeping, when it is much more difficult to be woken up from a sleeping state.
Apart from the obvious symptoms the condition can make someone talk during their sleep, act confused when woken up from sleeping, uncommunicative, act clumsily and have a glassy-eyed expression.
The chances are we all know somebody who snores, some louder than others. Snoring occurs due to turbulence and soft tissue vibration at the back of the throat.
Snoring is thought to come from the nose, but in fact it the snoring sound actually comes from the back of the airway. The parts involved are the tongue, the soft palate, the uvula and the pharyngeal walls.
During sleep the muscles at the back of the throat are more relaxed. That means the airway diameter decreases, air turbulence increases. And that makes the soft tissues in the back of the throat vibrate.
During a study carried out worldwide it was found that a high percentage of people snore when they sleep. The chances of a person snoring increase as they get older.
Although when you snore it is not thought to be particularly harmful it can sometimes have an adverse effect on your health. It can often wake the person, or indeed those close by, leading to a lack of sleep.
There are a number of ways you can help prevent the condition such as:
- Change sleeping position
- Avoid alcohol
- Stay hydrated
- Change pillows
- Lose weight and
- Open nasal passages.
Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is a sensory disorder which makes a person have the urge to move their legs. This urge normally comes about when the person is resting or trying to sleep. And this can be more uncomfortable. There can often be a number of sensations that people feel like, burning, crawling, tingling and general aches. This feeling can also happen in the arms.
Restless Leg Syndrome can make it very difficult for someone to get a good night’s sleep and this can impact on their ability to perform fully during the daytime.
Quite often no medical cause can be found for RLS. However, if somebody is highly stressed, suffers from anxiety or has a high alcohol consumption then all these factors can be a contributing factor to RLS.
Continuous medical research is being carried out to try and find the best way to treat RLS. So far, the most common solution to this unpleasant condition is to have a balanced healthy diet.
There are many ways you can help with the symptoms. Try to avoid eating big meals before bedtime, cut down on alcohol intake and try calming relaxation breathing exercises 10 minutes before you go to sleep.
Like most things teeth grinding has a medical name. It is called bruxism and is the term used to describe rhythmically grinding the teeth together and most commonly happens during sleep. Very bad cases can be diagnosed as a sleep movement disorder known as sleep bruxism.
While teeth grinding can be annoying for the person or bed partner it can also cause other unwanted health issues:
- sore jaw muscles
- headaches, especially around the temple
- sensitive teeth
If the grinding is particularly bad it can cause teeth to chip, become fractured and tooth enamel can be worn away.
While there is no known medical cause for grinding of teeth professionals believe there could be a number of contributing reasons why people do so.
These are often reasons such as, stress, anxiety, side effects of taking medication, acid reflux and misalignment of the upper and lower teeth.
REM Sleep Behavior Disorder
REM Sleep Behavior Disorder (RBD) is considered to be a fairly serious sleep disorder. It can be very harmful to the person with the condition and those around them.
RBD is a form of parasomnia in which individuals act out their dreams by movements. The dream can also trigger wild emotions in the individual. And sometimes if these emotions or actions are carried out it can cause harm to the dreamer or the person sharing their bed.
REM is the term used to refer to Rapid Eye Movement. And this is the last stage of sleep and is known as the dream state of sleep. During this phase of sleep most people will find that the body effectively shuts down due to muscle atonia and paralysis. This is not the case with people who have RBD. This is why they are able to make movements and actions during a state of sleep.
It can take between 1 and 1.5 hours to get into the REM sleep state so it is normally following this stage that the RBD state of mind sets in. People can suffer at least one episode during any given week.
Mild cases of RBD can go undetected due to the symptoms being so mild. However, in some cases episodes can be very dangerous due to the person acting out violent acts. Such as, kicking, punching, biting, leaping and jumping which will have occurred during their dream.
This obviously could cause a great deal of harm to the person and their bed partner.
The condition is most common in older men between the ages of 50 and 60, but women can suffer from it too, but only 1% of the population has the condition.
People with neurological disorders are more likely at risk of developing RBD, often by an increase of 50% compared to someone without such issues.
If RBD is detected then a specialist sleep doctor should be consulted. And they will more than likely set up an overnight sleep study to find out the severity of the condition. Nerogoical tests may be needed to discount any other underlying medical problems. In chronic cases patients will be prescribed medication which can help ease the symptoms.
So, as you can tell from reading the above information about the different types of sleep conditions, each has different characteristics but all may need some intervention from a medical professional.
While each condition is different, there is also a common theme between them all when seeking a solution to their painstaking symptoms.
It is no surprise that alcohol can play a big contributing factor in all sleeping problems. So it is wise to limit your alcohol consumption to a recommended level.
Also, eating a large meal before bedtime can have a detrimental effect on the quality of sleep you may have during the night. So. light snacks before bedtime are more advisable.
Relaxation techniques will also help greatly in trying to quell the severity of all of the above sleep conditions. Breathing techniques are particularly useful as they prepare the body to go into a relaxed state just before you drop off to sleep. Practice these methods 10 minutes for going to sleep and it will help greatly.
It is always advised to seek professional medical advice if you are worried about any of the conditions discussed above.