While studying sleep in my psychology classes, we learned about various sleep disorders. Sleep is a vital part of our daily routine in order to store memories, rejuvenate cells and helps fight illnesses. You spend on average a third of your life asleep. Clearly it’s important if it takes up such a large portion of your life. Sleep disorders can lead to fatigue, poor memory and concentration and an assorted list of health complications.
1. Sleep Apnea
You may be familiar with this sleep disorder. Sleep apnea occurs when you have pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep. It can trigger snoring since the airways are blocked or constricted. High blood pressure, obesity and heart complications also occur with sleep apnea so it’s important to discuss this with your doctor.
2. Insomnia or Hypersomnia
Complaints with your level of fatigue may be diagnosed as either insomnia or hypersomnia. Insomnia consists of an inability to get adequate and refreshing sleep. Hyersomnia is constant and unrelenting fatigue that makes it difficult to do daily functions. Both of these sleep disorders can result from outside factors such as medication, illnesses and weight.
3. Night Terrors
Night terrors happen to children at very young ages. This sleep disorder is similar to terrifying nightmares but occurs when transitioning between phases during non-REM sleep. Children who have night terrors will not be able to recall their dreams but will nonetheless experience screaming, a faster heartbeat, shallow breathing, excessive sweating and intense feelings of fear. There is not much treatment for night terrors because they are something the child will grow out of.
Patients who have narcolepsy have difficulty controlling their sleep vs wake cycles which causes them to suddenly and irresistibly fall asleep wherever they are. You could be in the grocery store, out with friends or simply relaxing at home. These “sleep attacks” normally last from a few seconds to a few minutes. Most diagnosed cases of narcolepsy occur in adolescents and children.
5. Restless Leg Syndrome
This disorder affects the nervous system and causes an urge to move your leg. Because it can interfere with your sleep patterns, this syndrome is classified as a sleep disorder. A feeling of “pins and needles” or an “itchy” sensation covers the leg at rest. The only way to alleviate that feeling is constant movement. Although the cause of this syndrome is unknown, it is highly speculated that patients have difficulty regulating iron in the body.
You may be well aware of this one. All of us experience nightmares at one point in our lives. I know I’ve had nightmares where I've woken up screaming in sheer panic and fear because it felt so real. Nightmares play upon our insecurities and phobias which is why they are so terrifying. If you have consistent nightmares, you should seek medical attention.
Do you grind your teeth while you sleep? You may have bruxism. When you grind your teeth once in a while, it is most likely because of added stress in your life. When you grind your teeth every night, you are causing serious damage to your teeth and jaw discomfort. You can prevent this by wearing a night guard to protect your mouth. An interesting fact that I learned is that bruxism and TMJ discomfort can lead to anxiety disorders and panic attacks.
I think it’s important to learn about the various sleep disorders because you do spend a large percentage of your life asleep. What sleep disorder was new to you? What are some other sleep disorders?