According to the American Psychiatric Association, sleep disorders are major disturbances of normal sleep patterns that lead to distress and disrupt functioning during the day. Not only are sleep disorders extremely common, affecting virtually everyone at some point in their lives, but they can also lead to serious stress and other health consequences.
According to a major survey by the National Sleep Foundation, more than half of Americans reported experiencing at least one symptom of insomnia several times a week during the previous year. Highlighting another major danger of sleep disorders, the survey also reported that 60 percent of respondents had driven while drowsy during the previous year.
Insomnia is by far the most common sleep disorder, affecting nearly 60 percent of U.S. adults at least one night each week. Common symptoms of insomnia include difficulty getting to sleep and waking before it is time to get up. There are many factors that can contribute to insomnia including stress and underlying medical conditions. Typical treatments include sleeping pills and behavior therapy. Practicing good sleep habits can often be effective for treating mild cases of insomnia.
Sleep apnea is the second most common sleep disorder and affects approximately 20 million Americans. This disorder causes people to stop breathing abruptly while they are asleep. During this brief period, carbon dioxide builds up in the blood and the sleeper wakes suddenly to gasp for breath. The length of time that the sleeper stop breathing can vary from a few seconds to so long that the individuals skin actually turns blue from oxygen deprivation.
Sleepwalking & Night Terrors:
While insomnia and sleep apnea are more common in adults, other sleep disorders such as sleepwalking and night terrors are far more common in young children. Sleepwalking, also known as somnambulism, is characterized by periods of getting out of bed while asleep.
Night terrors are most frequently seen in very young children (between the ages of 2 and 6), but people of any age can be affected by this sleep disorder. Typical symptoms include excessive sweating, shaking and obvious fear.
What Is Narcolepsy?
Excessive Sleepiness May Be Due to Neurologic Condition
Narcolepsy is a neurologic condition that results in excessive daytime sleepiness and other symptoms due to a failure to regulate the states of sleep and wakefulness. This failure results in abrupt transitions from one state into the other. This may lead to sudden weakness while awake (called cataplexy) or even complete paralysis, as would normally occur to prevent a person from acting out her dreams. Unfortunately, when this occurs at inappropriate times it may cause injury.
Additionally, people with narcolepsy may experience intense hallucinations while transitioning to sleep (called hypnagogic hallucinations) as the brain generates dreams while the narcoleptic remains awake.
Although only one in three people with narcolepsy will have all four symptoms, these four defining features are characteristic of the disorder. Cataplexy is not known to occur in any other disorder, so its presence is very helpful in identifying narcolepsy as the cause of the other symptoms.