Sleep Disorders Need Medical Attention

by Jessica B.
(Sleep Tips Forum Submission)

Sleep disorders have significant impact on a person’s ability to feel good and function well in everyday life. Seeking medical help for sleep issues is essential.

Following is an overview of the range of conditions that affect your sleep and, in turn, your health.

Living with a Sleeping Disorder

Trouble sleeping can affect a person’s health and quality of life. While it is normal to experience episodic sleep loss and disturbances, there are more severe conditions that occur with greater regularity and severity known as sleep disorders and parasomnias.

Medical Conditions

There are numerous medical disorders that can contribute to the occurrence of a sleep disorder. Sleep apnea is one condition that can contribute to difficulties with sleep. Individuals with this condition temporarily stop breathing and experience symptoms such as snoring, gasping and snorting. Sleep apnea can be life threatening so seeking medical attention is critical.

Another medical condition that can lead to sleep problems is restless leg syndrome. This condition disrupts sleep due to the persistent need to move legs, prompted by symptoms such as tingling and crawling sensations in the legs.

A similar condition to restless less syndrome is sleep myoclonus, where ongoing or intermittent with spasms, twitching, and jerking occur during the night in any part or multiple parts of your body.

Primary Sleep Disorders

Primary sleep disorders refer to several subcategories, including primary insomnia, primary hypersomnia, narcolepsy, breathing related sleep disorder and circadian rhythm sleep disorder.

With primary insomnia, an individual has difficulty falling or remaining asleep. Primary hypersomnia is a disorder marked by excessive tiredness that lasts for at least one month. Individuals suffering from this condition often wake without feeling rested and restored, and must experience clinically significant difficulties or impairment in work performance, social life, or other areas of functioning.

Narcolepsy refers to uncontrollable attacks of sleep that are restful, cataplexy and the occurrence of intrusive period of rapid eye movement that occurs between periods of sleep, occurring for at least 3 months.

Breathing related sleep disorder refers to disrupted or ventilation problems in breathing during sleep that is not prompted by medical causes. A side effect of this condition is increased, excessive sleepiness during waking hours.

Finally, circadian rhythm sleep disorder refers to an ongoing difficulty regulating periods of wakefulness and sleep, often caused by external stresses such as jet lag or night shifts. Keeping irregular patterns or hours of sleep might promote this disorder, leading to confusion in the body’s natural sleep patterns.

Psychiatric Disorders

There are a variety of psychiatric disorders that can disrupt sleep. Common culprits involve mood disorders, such as depression or bipolar affective disorder. Anxiety disorders, schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, as well as many others, can also provoke bouts of sleeplessness, particularly when symptoms of anxiety are at their worst.

The American Psychiatric Association has considered sleep disorders a classification of mental disorder since 1987. Sleep disorders are classified into several categories including primary sleep disorders, sleep disorders caused by another mental disorder, sleep disorder due to another medical condition, and substance induced sleep disorders.

Substance Induced Sleep Disorders

A variety of substances can lead to disrupted sleep patterns. Substances include a variety of prescription medications, particularly if used inappropriately, street drugs and alcohol.

If a sleep disorder is suspected based upon presence of any of the above symptoms, seek the advice of a medical professional. Do not attempt to self diagnose and treat a suspected sleep disorder.

Publisher's Note: For more detailed information on various sleep disorders, please see the topical articles on this site.

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