Sleep disorders, just like the name suggests, are conditions which affect normal, restful sleep and potentially lead to other problems as well. They require medical attention and in most cases they can be treated successfully. Sleep disorders are diagnosed through a test called polysomnogram or a sleep study, which requires an overnight stay in a sleep lab or other medical facility.
There are about eighty different sleep disorders and the most common ones include insomnia, sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome and narcolepsy.
Insomnia is something that most people have suffered from at least once in their life. In this sleep disorder, a person is not able to fall asleep or to stay asleep, or has difficulties in doing so. The main symptoms of insomnia include difficulty falling asleep, waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to go back to sleep, waking up very early in the morning, not feeling refreshed after sleeping and experiencing daytime problems like drowsiness, fatigue, poor concentration, irritability and similar.
Insomnia can be acute and chronic. Acute insomnia can last from one night to several weeks. Chronic insomnia means a person has insomnia three or more times a week for several months.
Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder in which a person does not breathe normally in his or her sleep, with short periods in which he or she does not breathe at all. Pauses in breathing occur repeatedly, in cycles, up to one hundred times per night. There are two types of sleep apnea - obstructive and central. In obstructive sleep apnea there is an obstacle in the airways, usually collapsed rear of the throat. In central sleep apnea, the brain does not send the breathing signals to the muscles that regulate respiration.
Restless legs syndrome
In this sleep disorder, a person experiences sensations in the legs that include pulling, tingling, creeping or pain, usually while laying in bed, but also during prolonged periods of sitting. It is called restless legs syndrome because a person feels the need to shake his or her legs or to walk in order to eliminate the sensation.
Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder in which the control of sleep and wakefulness are compromised. In this disorder, a person experiences extreme sleepiness during the day and has uncontrollable episodes of falling asleep at inappropriate times. These sudden sleep attacks can occur anytime and interrupt any activity that may be in course, which can be dangerous, especially if the person is standing, walking, or driving.
Narcolepsy usually starts between the ages of 15 and 25 but it sometimes takes a while before it is properly diagnosed and treated.