A sleep disorder, or somnipathy, is a medical disorder of the sleep patterns of a person or animal. Some sleep disorders are serious enough to interfere with normal physical, mental, social and emotional functioning. Polysomnography and actigraphy are tests commonly ordered for some sleep disorders.
Disruptions in sleep can be caused by a variety of issues, from teeth grinding (bruxism) to night terrors. When a person suffers from difficulty falling asleep and/or staying asleep with no obvious cause, it is referred to as insomnia.
Sleep disorders are broadly classified into dyssomnias, parasomnias, circadian rhythm sleep disorders involving the timing of sleep, and other disorders including ones caused by medical or psychological conditions and sleeping sickness. Some common sleep disorders include sleep apnea (stops in breathing during sleep), narcolepsy and hypersomnia (excessive sleepiness at inappropriate times), cataplexy (sudden and transient loss of muscle tone while awake), and sleeping sickness (disruption of sleep cycle due to infection).
Recent research suggests that if sleep deprivation is long-term–whether because of lifestyle choices or sleep disorders–it may increase the severity of age-related chronic disorders such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
How to get better sleep
Hypnotic drugs are potentially addictive. Generally, their use is limited to 10 days or less. However, most people with this chronic condition may need long-term treatment. About 20 percent of people with chronic insomnia have a primary form of it, which means it’s not associated with another medical condition. As with any prescription medication, it’s important to not increase doses or stop taking hypnotic drugs without consulting a doctor. No drugs that promote sleep should be taken with alcohol. And because of the sedating effects, caution must be used when getting out of bed, driving, or operating other machinery.
People with narcolepsy experience excessive sleepiness even after a full night’s sleep. Some people may be able to sleep, but the sleep quality is no good, If you look at the brain as a rechargeable flashlight, some people don’t hold the charge very well. They may have sleep attacks, sometimes at very inappropriate times such as while eating or talking. But not all cases present this way. Provigil (modafinil) may be helpful for this type of sleep disorder. The drug is approved by the FDA to improve wakefulness in people with narcolepsy. Potential side effects include headaches and nausea.Some people with narcolepsy experience episodes of cataplexy, a condition characterized by weak or paralyzed muscles such as buckling knees. In July 2002, the FDA approved Xyrem (sodium oxybate or gamma hydroxybutyrate, also known as GHB) to treat this condition.
Snoring is noisy breathing during sleep that occurs when relaxed structures in the throat vibrate and make noise. Most snoring is harmless, though it can be a nuisance that interferes with the sleep of others. Some snoring can be stopped with lifestyle changes, particularly losing weight, cutting down on smoking and alcohol, and changing sleeping positions. This generally means keeping snorers off their backs and on their sides as a way to keep the airway more open during sleep. There are over-the-counter nasal strips that are placed over the nose to widen the space in the nose and make breathing easier. Read labels carefully because these strips are only intended to treat snoring. The labels point out certain symptoms that require a doctor’s care.
The trick is figuring out the cause of snoring. It could be related to allergies or structural abnormalities such as nasal polyps or enlarged adenoids, which are lymphoid tissue behind the nose.
If your snoring is loud and frequent and you also have excessive daytime sleepiness, you could have sleep apnea. People with sleep apnea tend to also be overweight, and it’s more common among men than women. When a person with sleep apnea tries to breathe in air, it creates suction that collapses the windpipe and blocks the flow of air. Blood oxygen levels fall and the brain awakens the person, who then snorts or gasps for air and then resumes snoring. This cycle is typically repeated many times during the night. It results in frequent awakenings that prevent people from reaching the deepest stages of sleep, which leaves them sleepy during the day.
Sleep apnea has been linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. Recognizing the signs of sleep apnea in children is a challenge because unlike adults, kids push through daytime sleepiness and keep going. Kids with sleep apnea may do poorly in school.”
Doctors use an all-night sleep study to make a definitive diagnosis of sleep apnea. During the test, sensors are attached to the head, face, chest, abdomen, and legs. The sensors transmit data on how many times the person being tested wakes up, as well as changes in breathing and in blood oxygen levels.
Medications generally aren’t effective for sleep apnea. There are about 20 FDA-approved devices available by prescription for snoring and obstructive sleep apnea. Most devices pull the tongue or jaw forward to open the airway. There are no similar over-the-counter devices approved by the FDA. Potential side effects include damage to the teeth and jaw joint.
The most common treatment for sleep apnea is continuous positive airway pressure with a device that pushes air through the airway at sufficient pressure to keep the airway open while sleeping. Radzikowski says using CPAP makes her feel rested during the day. It involves wearing a mask over the nose while sleeping. A blower attached to the mask pushes air through her nasal passages.
Surgery also is an option to treat snoring and sleep apnea. This may include removal of the tonsils or adenoids. To treat snoring, a laser-assisted procedure called uvulopalatoplasty is used to enlarge the airway by reshaping the palate and the uvula, making them less likely to vibrate. For sleep apnea, a laser procedure called uvulopalatopharyngoplasty is used to remove excessive tissue at the back of the throat.
If you’re troubled by sleep problems, ask your health-care provider about how your problem should be evaluated and which treatments may be appropriate for you.
Tips for Better Sleep
1. Keep a regular sleep-wake cycle. Try to go to bed and wake up at
the same time every day.
2. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine in the four to six hours before
3. Don’t exercise within two hours of bedtime.
4. Don’t eat large meals within two hours of bedtime.
5. Don’t nap later than 3 p.m.
6. Sleep in a dark, quiet room with a comfortable temperature.
7. If you can’t fall asleep within 20 minutes, do a quiet activity
8. Perform relaxing pre-sleep ritual -warm bath, soft music, or reading.
9. Lose weight if you are overweight.
10. Take antacid if you have heartburn.