Caring for the Full Range of Sleep Disorders
Thousands of people in the C.S.R.A. and beyond suffer from sleep apnea, insomnia, narcolepsy, restless legs syndrome and other sleep problems. These sleep disorders take a toll on their physical and emotional health and interfere with their memory and ability to learn and reason. Sleep disorders can also strain relationships and lead to serious or even fatal accidents.
Unfortunately, most people don’t realize they have a sleep problem, so sleep disorders are often overlooked or untreated, increasing the risk of hypertension, heart disease, depression, diabetes and other illnesses.
If you have trouble sleeping or find it hard to stay awake during the day, you may have a sleep disorder. A simple test known as the Epworth Sleepiness Scale can help you determine if you need to see a physician.
Sleep disorders include:
- Sleep Apnea is a common, yet potentially dangerous, sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops for a short length of time, usually a matter of seconds, but can escalate to minutes.
- Insomnia is a common sleep disorder when someone has trouble falling or staying asleep.
- Narcolepsy is a disorder when the brain fails to regulate the sleep/wake cycle normally.
- Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) can disrupt sleep when an almost irresistible urge to move the legs occurs due to uncomfortable sensations.
- Periodic Limb Movement
This disorder involves periodic involuntary contractions of the leg muscles during sleep, causing jerking movements and frequent partial awakenings. This disrupted sleep results in daytime fatigue, even though people with the disorder think they are getting a full night’s rest. People with this disorder may report aching legs before bedtime or upon getting up. Consult a physician if you experience these symptoms.
Parasomnia is a broad term used to describe several uncommon but disruptive sleep disorders that involve physical acts that occur during sleep. They include:
This occurs when a person performs actions such as walking while sleeping. Sleepwalking is much more common in children than in adolescents or adults. It tends to run in families but rarely indicates a serious underlying medical problem. But sleepwalkers can injure themselves or others. If the sleepwalker exits the house or sleepwalks frequently and injuries occur, seek professional help right away.
- Sleep Talking
People with this condition occasionally shout out a word or two of gibberish or even recite an entire speech during sleep. This is a harmless and usually temporary condition.
- Sleep Terrors or Night Terrors
This is the most extreme and dramatic of the parasomnias. The disorder is marked by a sudden arousal and piercing screams or shouting, accompanied by signs of intense fear that usually occur during the first third of the night. People with sleep terrors may jump out of bed, become agitated or hurt themselves or others. Sleep terrors are more common in children and usually subsides before adulthood. Treatment is generally not needed for children unless the behavior is violent or causes excessive daytime sleepiness. However, sleep terrors in adults are serious and abnormal and usually indicate excessive agitation or sleep deprivation, depression, anxiety or even post traumatic stress disorder. Adults who experience sleep terrors should see a sleep specialist.
- Teeth Grinding (Bruxism)
Chronic grinding of the teeth, or bruxism, is a common occurrence that is particularly prevalent in children, but occurs in less than five percent of adults. The disorder can lead to dental damage or injury or chronic daytime sleepiness and disrupt the sleep of others. Chronic teeth grinders should consult a physician.
- Nocturnal Seizures
Nocturnal, or sleep-related seizures, is a form of epilepsy that can cause abnormal movement or behavior during sleep. Behaviors can range from waking several times a night to violent movements of the arms and legs to biting of the tongue to urination. These seizures frequently occur in people who have epileptic seizures during the day, but may also occur only at night. If you or a loved one experiences these symptoms, see a sleep specialist right away.