Sleep disorders are conditions that prevent a person from getting restful sleep and, as a result, can cause irritability, drowsiness, increases anxiety, and even depression. There are approximately eighty different types of sleep disorders, with roughly 70 million Americans who suffer from them. The most common sleep disorders are insomnia, sleep apnea, and restless legs syndrome.
Insomnia is a sleep disorder in which people have difficulty falling or staying asleep. Those who have insomnia often experience one or more of these symptoms:
- Poor quality sleep
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Waking up often during the night and having trouble going back to sleep
- Waking up too early in the morning
- Having at least one daytime problem such as fatigue; sleepiness; problems with mood, concentration; accidents at work or while driving, etc, due to not sleeping well
Insomnia often varies in duration and severity from person to person, and can be categorized as acute or chronic.
Acute insomnia is brief and often happens because of life circumstances (for example, when you can’t fall asleep the night before an exam, or after receiving stressful or bad news). Many people may have experienced this type of passing sleep disruption, and it tends to resolve without any treatment.
Chronic insomnia is disrupted sleep that occurs at least three nights per week and lasts at least three months. Chronic insomnia disorders can have many causes. Changes in the environment, unhealthy sleep habits, shift work, other clinical disorders, and certain medications could lead to a long-term pattern of insufficient sleep. People with chronic insomnia may benefit from some form of treatment to help them get back to healthy sleep patterns.
Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder that occurs when a person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep. People with untreated sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep.
There are two types of sleep apnea: obstructive and central.
- Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the more common of the two. It is caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses during sleep. Symptoms of OSA may include snoring, daytime sleepiness, fatigue, restlessness during sleep, gasping for air while sleeping, and trouble concentrating.
- Central sleep apnea (CSA) occurs when the airway is not blocked, but the brain fails to tell the body to breathe. This type is called central apnea because it is related to the function of the central nervous system. A few central apneas is normal, as the brain relaxes to get into deeper levels of sleep, but more than 3-5 a night is irregular. People with CSA may gasp for air but mostly report recurrent awakenings during night.
Restless Legs Syndrome
Restless legs syndrome (RLS), also called Willis-Ekbom Disease, causes unpleasant or uncomfortable sensations in the legs and an irresistible urge to move them. Symptoms commonly occur in the late afternoon or evening hours, and are often most severe at night when a person is resting, such as sitting or lying in bed. They also may occur when someone is inactive and sitting for extended periods (for example, when taking a trip by plane or watching a movie).