4 Most Common Sleep Disorders and their Symptoms
Sleep sleep beauty bright, dreaming in the joys of the night- William Blake
When the renowned poet Willaim Blake wrote these lines, little would he have thought that in years to come humanity will be plagued by sleep disorders!
Sleep disorder? Is it the same as having a bad night’s sleep? A bad night’s sleep is merely a sleep disruption on one night and can be caused due to reasons as simple as a bad or uncomfortable mattress.
Whereas, a sleep disorder is a complete change in the way one sleeps. It can have a negative effect on the overall health, safety, and quality of life. There are many types of sleep disorders and can be grouped into various categories. In this blog, we will be reading about the four common sleep disorders and get their deeper understanding.
Sleep Disorders and their Symptoms
Insomnia is a very common sleep disorder in which a person is unable to sleep. Even if a person falls asleep he/she is unable to sleep for long durations resulting in wakefulness through a large part of the night. Eventually, insomnia affects your mood, energy levels, performance at work, and overall health.
Insomnia can be temporary or chronic. Chronic insomnia is a major health concern. The reasons for insomnia can be stress, anxiety, poor sleep habits, hormonal changes, medical conditions like Parkinson's or Alzheimer’s, late dinners or consuming alcohol or nicotine late, in the day, and environmental factors to name a few.
- Lack of energy
- Difficulty in concentrating and forgetfulness
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Feeling unrefreshed after sleep
- Decreased performance at school or work
- Anxiety about sleep
This is a condition where people experience abnormal breathing patterns while sleeping. While there are several kinds of sleep apnea the most common one among adults is obstructive sleep apnea. In this condition, a person’s breathing may stop for several seconds during the night due to a blockage of the upper respiratory tract. When breathing resumes it results in snoring or gasping/choking sounds.
The common causes of sleep apnea include nasal obstruction due to allergies or sinus problems, having large tonsils or large tongue, overweight, and/or family history. Age and gender also play a major factor in sleep apnea. Researchers believe that sleep apnea is more common among men over 40 years of age.
- Frequent breaks in breathing
- Restless sleep which could lead to daytime sleepiness
- Morning headaches
- Depression or irritability
- Untreated sleep apnea can lead to diabetes or high blood pressure.
Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless leg syndrome is a neurological sensory disorder. It is characterized by a persistent need for an individual to move his/her legs while resting. There is no exact known cause for this condition. However, experts are of the opinion that the condition can be linked to the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is responsible for smooth muscle movements and a disruption in its production may cause involuntary movements.
- Strong urge to move the legs
- People experience sensations like creeping, pulling, aching, throbbing, itching or burning
- The above symptoms worsen when the legs are inactive and can aggravate during night time.
Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder of sleep regulation. In this condition, the brain is unable to control its sleep/wakefulness cycle. This condition is quite serious and unfortunately goes undiagnosed many times. The cause of narcolepsy is not known but recent research suggests that it could be due to low levels of Hypocretin, a neurotransmitter. Hypocretin regulates functions such as wakefulness and appetite. Experts also say that this disorder is rare in children. Its onset is between 15-25 years of age.
- Disturbed night time sleep
- Excessive daytime sleepiness
- Memory problems
- Sleep paralysis- Here a person is unable to move/experiences paralysis while falling asleep or waking up. This does not affect breathing.
- Sudden loss of muscle tone or cataplexy. This symptom is characterized by slurred speech and buckling knees.
Can the above-mentioned disorders be treated?
Yes, except narcolepsy all other conditions are curable.
For insomnia and sleep apnea most doctors suggest lifestyle changes before they start medications. However, for the other conditions, a patient is asked to take medications right from the start.
Again narcolepsy cannot be treated but can be managed with medication and support from family and friends.
A sleep disorder is not the end of the world. What is important is that it should be diagnosed and treatment has to be sought. Neglecting a disorder can lead to further complications, so it is best that these conditions are not ignored and appropriate intervention is made at the right time.