What are some types of sleep disorders?
Most people have experienced a lack of sleep, but sleep disorders cause poor sleep on a regular basis. There are many different types of sleep disorders. Some major disorders include sleep apnea, insomnia, narcolepsy and restless leg syndrome.
Sleep apnea causes the patient to move from a deep sleep to a more shallow sleep because they experience a temporary suspension of breathing (10 or more seconds). This occurs repeatedly. Two main types of sleep apnea are obstructive and central. In obstructive sleep apnea the airway becomes blocked and prevents the flow of air. In central sleep apnea the brain does not sent the signal to the muscles to breathe. Symptoms of sleep apnea are loud snoring, gasping, morning headaches, leg swelling and shortness of breath and memory problems. Sleep apnea is twice as common in men as in women, and excessive weight can play a role.
Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep. There is short-term or situational insomnia, and chronic insomnia. The short-term insomnia can be related to stressful situations. This is the most common reason for poor sleep. Chronic insomnia lasts at least three months. This may be related to another unrecognized sleep disorder.
Narcolepsy is unexplained sleepiness even when the patient has gotten adequate nighttime sleep. Patients of this syndrome experience vivid dreams, sleep paralysis and can suddenly feel weak and collapse. These symptoms can occur gradually over many years, or all at once.
Restless Legs Syndrome is characterized by unpleasant sensations in the legs that cause the urge to move legs when resting to relieve these feelings. Symptoms worsen in the evening and at rest, but are relieved by moving the legs. The sensation is described as creepy-crawly, electric shock or pain. Symptoms tend to become more severe when aging and one-third of the people with this chronic neurological disorder have had symptoms since childhood.
Periodic limb movement disorder (PMLD) is a sleep disorder where the patient moves limbs involuntarily during sleep, and a patient is often unaware of these movements. PLMD should not be confused with restless leg syndrome, which occurs while awake and when asleep.
Karen Smith, LPN, RCP, RPSGT, is the lead polysomnography technician at the Indiana University Health Ball Memorial Sleep Disorders Center. For more information, please visit iuhealth.org/ball-memorial.