Sleep disorders include difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep at night, or staying awake during daytime hours. Most sleep disorders can be improved or cured, but the effectiveness of treatment will depend on a detailed evaluation, an accurate diagnosis and cutting-edge therapy.
Sleep disorders affect not only the person with the disorder, but also people around them. Daily problems such as stress can lead to insomnia or brain disorders such as narcolepsy. While some disorders are treated with one night's dose of a sleep aid, some require more intensive forms of treatment, such as behavior therapy or prescription medication.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
OSA causes people to struggle for breath because the passage in the back of the throat falls shut during sleep. This can cause loud snoring. Sleep apnea has been shown to contribute to:
- Weight gain
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Accidents caused by sleepiness
So named because they are events associated with sleep, parasomnias include sleep walking or talking, nightmares, night terrors, teeth grinding, and other abnormal sleeping behaviors. These can simply disturb sleep or can be symptoms of serious medical conditions that endanger the patient.
Many individuals can have difficulty falling asleep due to stress; however, chronic insomnia may be caused by a variety of triggers, such as depression, anxiety, prolonged poor sleeping habits including unnatural sleeping schedules or restless leg syndrome. Insomnia can be treated with behavior therapy and/or medication.
Circadian Rhythm Disorders (CRD)
Most commonly caused by shift work or multi-time zone air travel, CRDs are disruptions of the body's internal clock, which may cause sleepiness and/or insomnia at inappropriate times.
Excessive Sleepiness and Narcolepsy
Causes of excessive sleepiness include sleep apnea, Circadian Rhythm Disorders and insufficient sleep. One cause, however, is a brain disorder called narcolepsy. Narcolepsy, caused by an abnormality in the brain's control of the sleeping and waking states, may cause muscle weakness, awakening with a sensation of paralysis, or dreaming while awake. This disorder is treated with a variety of medications.