It is apparent that there are significant amounts of sleep issues and sleepiness in our society. The public health consequences from sleep disorders and sleepiness are staggering. We will take a look at a list of sleep disorders and then follow up later in this post with detailed attributes of these disorders.
According to the American Sleep Association, 50-70 million US adults have a sleep disorder. 48.0% report snoring and 4.7% report nodding off or falling asleep while driving at least once in the preceding month. Drowsy driving is responsible for 1,550 fatalities and 40,000 nonfatal injuries annually in the United States.
I would suspect that the statistics from other continents of the world would also have staggering statistics for sleep disorders.
Ask Yourself These Questions
- Do you constantly struggle in some way with sleep?
- Do you have trouble getting or staying asleep?
- Do you wake in the middle of the night unable to return to sleep, or wake in the morning feeling as if you never really slept at all?
- Have you been told that you exhibit strange behaviors during sleep?
- Do you feel tired and worn down nearly every day?
If so, perhaps you might have a sleep disorder.
List of Sleep Disorders
These are the most common sleep disorders that could be robbing us of quality sleep:
- Insomnia, in which you have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night. Refer to my article, “Natural Cures For Insomnia – For Adults“.
- Sleep apnea, in which you experience abnormal patterns in breathing while you are asleep.
- Restless legs syndrome (RLS), a type of sleep movement disorder. Restless legs syndrome, causes an uncomfortable sensation and an urge to move your legs while you try to fall asleep.
- Narcolepsy, a condition characterized by extreme sleepiness during the day and falling asleep suddenly during the day.
Sleep Disorders In More Detail
There are many different types of sleep disorders, but for now, let’s look at the four above-mentioned most common sleep disorders in more detail.
Insomnia is by far the most common sleep disorder with approximately half of all people having experienced symptoms occasionally, and about 10% of Americans reported suffering from chronic insomnia.
Insomnia is characterized by:
- Difficulty going to sleep at night
- Waking often in the middle of the night with trouble returning to sleep
- Waking earlier in the morning than planned or desired
Losing quality sleep regularly can lead to many troubles and difficulties experienced during the day.
Some of the reported symptoms of insomnia are:
- Feeling as if sleep was unrefreshing
- Experiencing excessive daytime sleepiness
- General lack of energy
- Difficulty concentrating
- Mood and behavior disturbances such as irritability, aggression, and impulsive behaviors
- Decreased performance at work or school
- Troubles in personal and professional relationships
- Having accidents at work or while driving fatigued
Causes of insomnia can vary from being associated with a medical or psychiatric problem, environmental influences, or stress and worry.
To help people who have insomnia to get to sleep quicker, and obtain a better night’s sleep, especially side sleepers, I did an extensive review researching the best pillow to purchase. The article is called, “What’s The Best Pillow For Side Sleepers? – Special Gusset Design Review.” I invite you to take a read.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the second most prevalent sleep disorder affecting roughly 20 million Americans. It’s also estimated that up to 80% of people with OSA may not even realize it.
Obstructive sleep apnea is when a person’s breathing stops for several seconds during the night due to blockage in the upper respiratory system. As one sleeps, soft tissues in the throat relax and collapse into the airway blocking oxygen from getting to the lungs. Partial blockage often results in snoring, and full blockage results in a cessation of breathing followed by gasping or choking sounds as breathing resumes.
As a response to not breathing, the brain partially awakens from sleep to force respiratory effort to breathe harder and get past the blockage.
When this occurs several times an hour for several seconds at a time, the brain is never really allowed time to enter deeper phases of sleep where restorative bone, tissue, and cognitive functions prepare you for the next day. See my article, “Sleep Patterns for Adults – What’s Normal?” As a result, quality sleep is forfeited leaving the person feeling tired all day.
In addition, the respiratory effort required during sleep to continue breathing and functioning puts a strain on the heart and can lead to all kinds of heart problems down the road.
Restless Leg Syndrome
Approximately 10% of adults and 2% of children suffer from restless leg syndrome (RLS) to varying degrees.
RLS is a neurological disorder characterized by a persistent, sometimes overwhelming need to move one’s legs (and occasionally other body parts), usually while resting.
Sensations in the legs are often described as creeping, pulling, aching, itching, burning, and throbbing and the only relief is temporary movement or massaging of the legs.
Restless leg syndrome is classified as a sleep disorder because the constant need to move one’s legs during rest can have a severe impact on the ability to get to, and maintain sleep. Sleep loss is one of the most commonly reported side effects of RLS and leads to similar symptoms of sleep deprivation found in other disorders including diminished quality of life, excessive daytime sleepiness, memory impairment, cognitive impairment, and even depression.
According to Wikipedia, narcolepsy is a neurological disorder characterized by the brain’s inability to control its sleep/wakefulness cycle.
Approximately 1 in 2,000 people suffer from narcolepsy with over 200,000 Americans suffering from it.
People with narcolepsy suffer from chronic daytime sleepiness and episodes in which they fall asleep unexpectedly during the day. These “sleep attacks” can occur at any time, during any activity. Sleep attacks are not limited to periods of dull or low engagement activities, but can happen during school or work hours, in the middle of a conversation, while eating, while exercising or playing sports, or most dangerously, while driving.
A list of symptoms of narcolepsy can include:
Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (EDS). EDS is the most common symptom of narcolepsy and usually the first symptom to appear (usually between the ages of 10-20 years old). EDS is characterized by a chronic persistence of feeling sleepy and involuntary episodes of falling asleep without warning. Sleep attack bouts can last anywhere from several seconds to several minutes.
People with EDS report it as feelings of mental cloudiness, a lack of energy and concentration, a depressed mood, or extreme exhaustion. EDS occurs even if the patient appears to have gotten plenty of sleep the night before, and usually persists throughout the day.
The following are types of EDS, Excessive Daytime Sleepiness, of Narcolepsy:
Sleep Paralysis. Sleep Paralysis the inability to move or speak while one is falling asleep or beginning to wake up. During sleep paralysis the sufferer is consciously aware of their surroundings but is unable to move because the body is still in REM (rapid-eye-movement) sleep. During REM sleep, the voluntary muscles are “paralyzed” to keep people from being able to act out their dreams. Sleep paralysis usually lasts only a few seconds up to a few minutes with no permanent effects.
Cataplexy. Cataplexy is very similar to sleep paralysis in that there is an involuntary inability to move muscles or speak. While very similar to sleep paralysis in condition, it is usually onset by varying circumstances. Instead of occurring at the beginning or end of sleep, cataplexy can occur at any time during the waking period and is usually triggered by intense emotions such as surprise, fear, anger, stress, or even humor.
Hallucinations. Sufferers of narcolepsy can experience hallucinations during times when they are waking from sleep or during sleep onset. The hallucinations are often very vivid and can even be frightening.
Disturbed nocturnal sleep. It may seem counterintuitive to believe that sufferers of narcolepsy would have any trouble sleeping at night, but one of the most common symptoms is fragmented sleep. Just as people with narcolepsy have trouble staying awake during the day, they often have difficulty staying asleep at night. They can wake up to four or five times up to 10 or 20 minutes with no clear reason. Their sleep can be disturbed by insomnia, vivid dreaming, sleep talking, acting out while dreaming, and periodic limb movements.
As we can see from this post, sleep disorders can reduce the quality of our lives, and can affect our overall health and even our ability to drive safely. It increases our risk of other health problems as well.
What I’ve learned from doing research for writing this post: First, I’m sure you would agree with me, I didn’t realize how many people suffer from sleep disorders. Secondly, I realize that I experience insomnia occasionally, where I have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Hopefully, you too, have confirmed in your mind whether or not you have a sleep disorder.
Stay tuned as I continue to explore the topic of sleep and further share my findings with you here on my site. Together, we will make future choices that will lead us to a better quality of sleep.
Thank you for reading, and I invite you to leave your comments or questions below, and I will respond soon. Come back again to read more of my informative sleep posts. Bye for now.