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What are Sleep Disorders?

Sleep is vital to our well-being. Research shows that an adequate amount of quality sleep is essential for overall good health. Sleep disorders are often not taken seriously enough.

Loud snoring and daytime fatigue may be warning signs of a sleep disorder. An undiagnosed sleep disorder could lead to an accident or may cause high blood pressure which increases the risk of a heart attack or stroke. Loss of sex drive may also be a symptom of a sleep disorder. We’ve summarized some of the most common sleep disorders and their warning signs.

Many other medical problems may impact sleep or may be affected by sleep disorders. If you have heart or lung disease and poor sleep, you should consider discussing your symptoms with your doctor and arranging for a comprehensive evaluation by a board-certified sleep physician.

Insomnia

Insomnia is characterized by an inability to sleep and/or inability to remain asleep for a reaonsable period. Insomniacs typically complain of being unable to close their eyes or “rest their mind” for more than a few minutes at a time. Both organic and nonorganic insomnia constitute a sleep disorder. It is often caused by fear, stress, anxiety, medications, herbs, caffeine, depression or sometimes for no apparent reason. An overactive mind or physical pain may also be causes. Finding the underlying cause of insomnia is usually necessary to cure it.

Symptoms may include:

  • Depression or stress
  • Disturbing thoughts while trying to sleep
  • Waking during the night and going back to sleep with difficulty
  • Lying awake for more than half an hour before falling asleep

Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is a condition marked by an uncontrollable desire for sleep, or sudden attacks of weakness occurring during moments of strong emotions. Related symptoms and warning signs include:

  • Vivid nightmares or hallucinations when falling asleep or waking up
  • Paralysis when falling asleep or awakening
  • Cataplexy is an episodic conditions featuring loss of muscle function, ranging from slight weakness to complete body collapse
  • A feeling of “going limp” when angry or surprised
  • Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS)
  • Disturbed or fragmented sleep

Periodic Limb Movements (PLM) and “Restless Legs” Syndrome

These conditions are markes by involuntary muscle contraction of the legs or arms during sleep. Symptoms may include:

  • Muscle tension in legs
  • Crawling sensations in legs
  • Kicking at night
  • Daytime sleepiness

Parasomnias

The most common examples of parasomnias are:

  • Sleepwalking or sleep talking
  • Severe nightmares/tremors
  • Sleep terrors
  • Movement disorder