Article describing the symptoms and dangers of certain sleep disorders
|The quality and quantity of sleep a person gets directly impacts their daily life, and experts agree the amount of sleep needed to function properly varies from person to person. These amounts are determined by how much sleep an individual needs daily to feel their best, referred to as their basal sleep needs, and their sleep debt. The sleep debt is the accumulated amount of rest a person owes his or her body from nights when they do not get the proper amount of sleep. This debt builds over time leading to memory, productivity, and thought-processing problems in the short term, and eventually causes significant health problems if the lack of sleep is not addressed.
While many people may lose sleep occasionally due to worry or having to get an assignment or project done, there are others who deal with disrupted sleep several nights a week or more. These people may be suffering from a sleep disorder. The term sleep disorder is used to describe over one hundred different sleep issues, and this list can be broken down into four major types.
Insomnia is used to describe sleep issues involving difficulty falling asleep, problems staying asleep, or waking up several times throughout the night or within a few hours of going to sleep. A person suffering from insomnia may have only one of these issues, or they can have a combination of these symptoms. The effects of insomnia are usually extreme tiredness and concentration that prevents a sufferer from carrying out normal, routine tasks throughout the day. Those who wake up repeatedly during the night often feel as if they are not rested the next morning, and do not find the sleep they get helps them to feel refreshed and ready for the day. Insomnia is also related to disorientation, irritability, changes in posture, and an overall lack of energy. Insomnia can be classified as acute, meaning it occurs for only a few weeks, or chronic if the person suffers from sleep difficulties three or more nights a week for longer than one month. Both types of insomnia may come and go, and there may be times when the person goes for several months or years without any difficulties.
Hypersomnia, or excessive daytime sleepiness, is diagnosed when a person has difficulties staying awake during the day even though he or she gets adequate sleep at night. Hypersomnia usually has a medical cause such as thyroid problems, viral infections, and obesity. Narcolepsy is a disorder that is often classified by sudden attacks of daytime sleepiness that can result in the person sleeping for approximately 15 minutes, and waking up feeling full of energy. The exact cause of this type of Hypersomnia is not known, but experts believe it is caused by certain genes and consider it an autoimmune disorder.
Disrupted Sleep Schedules
Disrupted sleep schedules occur when a person is not able to stick to a normal sleep schedule, resulting in an inability to sleep or wake when they should. This type of sleep problem can refer to jet-lag disorder, which affects those who travel by plane through various time zones, and shift-work disorder. Shift work disorder occurs most often in people whose work schedules vary from overnight shifts to daytime shifts, making it difficult for their bodies to figure out exactly when they should awake or asleep. Another less common form of disrupted sleep schedule disorder is called paradoxical insomnia, and is caused by a person believing he or she has slept more or less than they actually have.
Sleep disruptive behaviors are actions that interrupt normal sleep and are called parasomnias. Parasomnias may occur at any time during a normal sleep cycle, or just as the person is falling asleep. These behaviors include sleepwalking, sleep eating, having sex while asleep, night terrors, and sleep paralysis, which causes a person to be unable to move immediately after waking. Another sleep disrupting behavior is called REM sleep disorder, and encompasses groaning, yelling, or violent twitching while asleep. These behaviors are often related to dreams the person is having, and are the result of the person "acting out" those dreams. The disruptive behaviors that occur during sleep are usually not harmful to the sufferer, and many times it is the sleep partner that alerts the sleeper to the problem. Many of these behaviors occur as a result of medications, genetics, or other types of sleep disorders.
Restless leg syndrome is a disorder that often occurs as a person is going to sleep, and causes twitching, stinging, or pulling sensations in the legs. The person feels an incontrollable urge to move their legs to stop the sensations, preventing them from falling asleep normally. This disorder and nocturia, an excessive need to go to the bathroom during the night, are also considered sleep disrupting behaviors, even though the person may wake up completely and be aware of what they are doing.
Sleep apnea is often categorized with disruptive sleep disorders, but can be a more serious problem. During sleep, apnea sufferers experience pauses in their breathing of ten seconds or more, leading to a drop in oxygen levels. Those suffering from apnea may be partially or completely awakened during the episodes, leading to more daytime sleepiness. Sleep apnea is dangerous because it can increase the chances of stroke, congestive heart failure, and high blood pressure.
Sleep disorders may not occur every night, but when they are present they can be disruptive and dangerous to daily life. Excessive sleepiness during the day can pose dangers by increasing the likelihood of falling asleep while driving, and the loss of concentration can lead to poor judgment in daily decisions and activities. Occasional bouts of insomnia or changes in sleeping patterns are normal, and usually do not have long term health effects. When changes or disturbances in sleeping occur frequently and begin having negative effects on everyday activities, they should not be ignored. Many sleep disorders can be treated with medications, dietary changes, and counseling, so it is important to have these issues diagnosed when they begin interfering with daily life.