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SLEEP DISORDERS

There are a variety of sleep disorders. Below you will find information on the most common.

You can also visit the National Institutes of Health website for more detailed information including the latest news, treatments, and reasons for sleep disorders.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a term that means you stop breathing for 10 seconds or longer during sleep. The severity of the case depends on how often in an hour you stop breathing. The main type of sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea, is caused by a blocked or narrowed airway in the throat, nose, or mouth.

It can be caused by obesity, using certain medications or alcohol before sleep, or by sleeping on your back. In children, it is often caused by enlarged adenoids or tonsils.

The most common symptoms include:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Awaking multiple times during the night
  • Heavy snoring
  • Choking during sleep

Diagnosing sleep apnea is usually done through an overnight sleep study. Treatment depends on the kind of apnea but usually includes the use of a mask fitted over the face to keep the airway open.

Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless leg syndrome is an urge to move the legs that is normally caused by uncomfortable or unpleasant sensations.
These sensations often:

  • Occur during periods of inactivity, becoming more severe during the evening and night
  • Are relieved by movement of the limb
  • Cause insomnia and excessive daytime sleepiness
  • May cause involuntary jerking of limbs during the night and sometimes during waking hours

Insomnia

The inability to initiate or maintain sleep is known as insomnia. It can be caused by the following: stress, anxiety, depression, pain or acute illness, breathing disorders, or heart problems. While many use sleep aids (like over the counter pills or alcohol) to deal with insomnia, the proper diagnosis is essential to treating the problem.

Narcolepsy

A sleep disorder of neurological origin, narcolepsy, is characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness. It can start at any age and continues throughout life. The main symptoms are as follows:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Cataplexy (the feeling of muscle weakness when surprised or angry)
  • Terrifying dreams or hallucinations, along with the temporary feel of muscle paralysis at sleep onset or after awakening from sleep

This diagnosis is made by health history and often requires an overnight sleep study with a Multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT).