Sleep disorders– which prevent restorative sleep and often result in daytime dysfunction– are common among the adult population. In fact, it’s estimated that up to 70 million Americans suffer from some type of sleep disorder. While there are dozens of common sleep disorders that have been identified, the following are the most prevalent:
Almost half of the adult population experiences insomnia from time to time. However, about 1 in 10 people suffer from long-term, or chronic, insomnia. Chronic insomnia is characterized by experiencing insomnia at least 3 nights per week for a minimum of a month. Symptoms of insomnia– both acute (short-term) and chronic– include:
- Difficulty falling asleep at night.
- Inability to stay asleep throughout the night.
- Waking too early in the morning.
- Having sleep that is not refreshing or restorative.
- Suffering from fatigue, moodiness, difficulty concentrating, etc. during the day.
There are a variety of causes of insomnia. Factors like excessive noise, jet lag, and shift work can contribute to short-term insomnia. Anxiety about an upcoming interview or depression due to the recent loss of a loved one are two other examples of short-term insomnia causes.
Chronic insomnia is sometimes caused by medical concerns, like sleep apnea or dementia. Additionally, psychiatric issues such as anxiety and depression are commonly linked to chronic insomnia.
Obstructive sleep apnea, which is the most common type of sleep apnea, occurs when the muscles of the throat relax during sleep and block air flow to the lungs. Obstructive sleep apnea is characterized by repeated episodes of breathing cessation lasting at least 10 seconds during sleep. Although anyone can develop obstructive sleep apnea, it is more common in men, obese people, and those with large tonsils or adenoids. Symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea include:
- Difficulty focusing or concentrating during the day.
- Sleep partner noticing interruptions in breathing during sleep.
- Feeling very sleepy; difficulty staying awake throughout the day
Many people are unaware that they suffer from obstructive sleep apnea. Often, a sleep partner expresses concern first, perhaps due to excessive snoring or observed sleep interruptions. Because severe sleep apnea has been linked to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, it’s important to seek treatment.
Restless Leg Syndrome
People with Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)– which is a sleep disorder related to sensation and movement– have an intense urge to move their legs when lying down. This frequent movement prevents them from getting restful sleep. Symptoms of RLS include:
- A feeling that the legs must be moved.
- A feeling of tingling, pulling, or “pins and needles” in the legs.
- Periodic limb movements after falling asleep.
There isn’t a clear cause for RLS, but it does tend to run in families. Additionally, pregnant women are more likely to suffer from Restless Leg Syndrome, although the problem usually resolves after giving birth. Medical conditions that have been linked to RLS include: Parkinson’s Disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and kidney failure. It should be noted, though, that most people presenting with restless legs do not have these conditions.
Narcolepsy– a neurological sleep disorder– is characterized by extreme daytime sleepiness and uncontrollable episodes of falling asleep during the day. These intermittent episodes of daytime sleep can occur at any time, during any type of activity. Narcolepsy most commonly presents between the ages of 15 and 25, but can become apparent at any age. The symptoms of narcolepsy include:
- Cataplexy, which is a loss of muscle tone that can lead to weakness and loss of muscle control. It can range in severity from slurred speech to a total collapse of the body.
- Extreme daytime sleepiness that interferes with everyday activities
- Mental fogginess and depression.
- Sleep paralysis, characterized by the temporary inability to move or speak when falling asleep or waking up.
- Hallucinations, which are typically visual.
The cause of narcolepsy is unknown and remains a topic of research. Scientists have identified genes that appear to be associated with the sleep disorder, but it is likely that narcolepsy involves multiple interacting factors.
If you or someone you know is in need of a better night’s sleep, contact us for a no obligation consultation. We are the sleep specialists at Chevy Chase ENT located in the Virginia, Maryland, and Washington D.C. metro area dealing with sleep apnea and sleep-related problems. We can help diagnose your condition, recommend whether a sleep study would be beneficial, and offer you a variety of treatment options including CPAP, Radio Frequency Ablation (RFA) and more.