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Most common Sleep Disorders

Sleep disorders are conditions that prevent a person from getting restful sleep and, as a result, can cause daytime sleepiness and dysfunction. There are approximately eighty different types of sleep disorders. The most common sleep disorders are:

Sleep disorders, from insomnia to Sleep Apnea, to sleep deprivation due to work schedules or caring for sick family members, take an enormous toll on sufferers and society at large. The National Commission on Sleep Disorders Research estimates that 40 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep disorders and another 20 to 30 million experience sleep problems intermittently. Since sleep disorders increase with age, those suffering from them are expected to rise to 79 million and those suffering from intermittent problems to increase to 40 million, as the U.S. population ages.

Sleep problems can be induced by overconsumption of caffeine or alcohol, as a side effect of medications, or can develop as secondary effects of another illness, such as arthritis, bladder conditions or psychological disorders such as depression. But in a large number of cases, primary sleep disorders are the cause of sleeplessness or disrupted sleep.

Experts estimate that 95 percent of those suffering from sleep disorders go undiagnosed, suffering needlessly from conditions that could be treated.

Snoring

Many adults snore. The noise is produced when the air you inhale rattles over the relaxed tissues of the throat. Snoring can be a problem simply because of the noise it causes. It may also be a marker of a more serious sleep problem called Sleep Apnea. It is a common condition that can affect anyone, although it occurs more frequently in men and people who are overweight. Snoring has a tendency to worsen with age.

Occasional snoring is usually not very serious and is mostly a nuisance for your bed partner. However, if you are a habitual snorer, you not only disrupt the sleep patterns of those close to you, but you also impair your own sleep quality. Medical assistance is often needed for habitual snorers (and their loved ones) to get a good night's sleep.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder that occurs when a person's breathing is interrupted during sleep. People with untreated Sleep Apnea stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep, sometimes hundreds of times during the night. There are two types: obstructive and central. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is the more common of the two. It is caused by a blockage of the airway, usually when the soft tissue in the rear of the throat collapses during sleep.

Men, overweight people, and people over 40 are at greater risk for Sleep Apnea.

If left untreated it can result in a growing number of health problems, including:

  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Heart failure, irregular heart beats, and heart attacks
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Worsening of ADHD

In addition, untreated it may be responsible for poor performance in everyday activities, such as at work and school, motor vehicle crashes, and academic underachievement in children and adolescents.

Central Sleep Apnea

In Central Sleep Apnea, breathing is disrupted regularly during sleep because of the way the brain functions. It is not that you cannot breathe (which is true in Obstructive Sleep Apnea); rather, you do not try to breathe at all. The brain does not tell your muscles to breathe. This type is called central apnea because it is related to the function of the central nervous system and is usually associated with serious illness, especially an illness in which the lower brainstem (which controls breathing) is affected.

Conditions that may be associated with Central Sleep Apnea include the following:

  • Congestive heart failure
  • Hypothyroid Disease
  • Kidney failure
  • Neurological diseases, such as Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease)
  • Damage to the brainstem caused by encephalitis, stroke, injury, or other factors

Insomnia

People who have insomnia don't feel as if they get enough sleep at night. They may have trouble falling asleep or may wake up frequently during the night or early in the morning. Insomnia is a problem if it affects your daytime activities. Insomnia has many possible causes, including:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Poor sleep habits
  • Circadian rhythm disorders (such as Jet Lag)
  • Taking certain medications

Insomnia varies in how long it lasts and how often it occurs. Insomnia can be short-term and stem from a simple cause, such as Jet Lag, a stressful event, or drinking too much coffee. Long-term insomnia may be caused by stress, depression, or anxiety. People can also become conditioned to insomnia: They associate bedtime with difficulty, expect to have trouble sleeping (and thus do), and become irritable (which can cause more insomnia). This cycle can be maintained for several years. People with insomnia have one or more of the following symptoms:

  • difficulty falling asleep
  • waking up often during the night and having trouble going back to sleep
  • waking up too early in the morning
  • having unrefreshing sleep
  • having at least one daytime problem such as fatigue; sleepiness; problems with mood, concentration; accidents at work or while driving, etc

Circadian Rhythm Disorder

Circadian rhythm disorders are disruptions in a person's circadian rhythm—a name given to the "internal body clock" that regulates the 24-hour cycle of biological processes in animals and plants.

The key feature of circadian rhythm disorders is a continuous or occasional disruption of sleep patterns. The disruption results from either a malfunction in the "internal body clock" or a mismatch between the "internal body clock" and the external environment regarding the timing and duration of sleep. As a result of the circadian mismatch, individuals with these disorders usually complain of insomnia at certain times and excessive sleepiness at other times of the day, resulting in work, school, or social impairment.

Circadian rhythm disorders include:

  • Jet lag
  • Shift Work Sleep Disorder
  • Delayed sleep phase syndrome (you fall asleep and wake up too late)
  • Advanced sleep phase syndrome (you fall asleep and wake up too early)

Jet Lag

Also known as time-zone change, Jet Lag is a disruption in sleep patterns following travel across time zones. The cause of Jet Lag is the inability of the body of a traveler to immediately adjust to the time in a different zone. As the body struggles to cope with the new schedule, temporary insomnia, fatigue, irritability, and an impaired ability to concentrate may set in. The changed bathroom schedule may cause constipation or diarrhea, and the brain may become confused and disoriented as it attempts to juggle schedules.

Jet Lag is a common problem for travelers, and more common in those over 50 than in those under 30. Incidence varies depending on how many time zones and the direction of travel. These effects may be felt a day or two after travel. Frequent travelers can develop chronic Jet Lag symptoms.

Here are some steps that can help you minimize the effects of Jet Lag and to adjust your sleep schedule to the new location during the days preceding your trip:

  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine during your trip. Both can affect the quality of your sleep
  • Take 5 mg. of melatonin at bedtime during the first few days following arrival. Some prescription short-acting hypnotics also can help relieve Jet Lag
  • Exercise and keep your body well hydrated with nonalcoholic or caffeine-free drinks
  • Light therapy may help in adjustment

Shift Work Sleep Disorder (SWSD)

SWSD is a sleep disorder that affects people who frequently rotate shifts or work at night. Schedules of these people go against the body's natural Circadian rhythm, and individuals have difficulty adjusting to the different sleep and wake schedule. SWSD consists of a constant or recurrent pattern of sleep interruption that results in insomnia or excessive sleepiness. This disorder is common in people who work non-traditional hours, usually between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.

The most common symptoms of SWSD are insomnia and excessive sleepiness. Other symptoms of SWSD include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Headaches
  • Lack of energy
  • Irritability, mood problems

Shift workers must be willing to make sleep a priority. People who work shifts other than a 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. routine might have to prepare for sleep even though it might be daylight outside. Prepare your body and mind for sleep. Minimize exposure to light on your way home from work if you are on the night shift to keep morning sunlight from activating your internal "daytime clock." Follow bedtime rituals and try to keep a regular sleep schedule - even on weekends. Go to sleep as soon as possible after work. It is important to get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep every day.

Periodic Limb Movements Syndrome (PLMD)

Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD) is repetitive cramping or jerking of the limbs during sleep. The movements typically involve the legs, but upper extremity movements may also occur. "Periodic" refers to the fact that the movements are repetitive and rhythmic, occurring about every 20-40 seconds. They tend to cluster in episodes that last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours. PLMD is considered a sleep disorder, because the movements often disrupt sleep and lead to daytime sleepiness.

The causes of PLMD are unknown. However recent research has shown that people with a variety of medical problems, including Parkinson's disease and narcolepsy, may have frequent periodic limb movements in sleep. PLMD may also be caused by medications, most notably, antidepressants.

The most common symptoms noted by people with PLMD are poor sleep and daytime sleepiness. Many people with PLMD are unaware of their leg movements unless their bed partner tells them.

  • Leg movements may involve one or both limbs
  • Typically the knee, ankle, and big toe joints all bend as part of the movements
  • The movements vary from slight to strenuous and wild kicking and thrashing
  • The movements last about 2 - 7 seconds
  • The movements are rhythmic and repetitive

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is a sleep disorder that cause tingling, pulling, creeping, or painful sensations in the legs. In people who have Restless Legs Syndrome, discomfort in the legs and feet peaks during the evening and night. They feel an urge to move their legs and feet to get temporary relief, often with excessive, rhythmic, or cyclic leg movements during sleep. This can delay sleep onset and disrupt sleep, leading to a daytime drowsiness.

Making simple lifestyle changes can play an important role in alleviating symptoms of RLS. Try these steps to help reduce the extra activity in your legs:

  • Soaking in a warm bath and massaging your legs
  • Try relaxation techniques, such as meditation or yoga
  • Establish good sleep hygiene
  • Get moderate, regular exercise
  • Avoid caffeine
  • Cut back on alcohol and tobacco

Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is a brain disorder that causes excessive daytime sleepiness. There is sometimes a genetic component, but most patients have no family history of the problem. It may start in childhood but typically peaks in young adulthood.

Narcolepsy is characterized by extreme, overwhelming sleepiness during the day. It is caused by a dysfunction of the brain mechanisms controlling sleep and waking. The person may suddenly fall asleep in midsentence, while at work, or behind the wheel of a car. Other symptoms of narcolepsy include the sudden loss of muscle tone while awake, when surprised or upset (which can be severe enough to cause a collapse), and vivid hallucinations as the person is falling asleep.

The symptoms of narcolepsy can be found in several other conditions, including Obstructive Sleep Apnea, so accurate diagnosis is critical.

Night Terrors and Nightmares

Night Terrors occur most often in children between the ages of 3 and 5 years old. A night terror can be dramatic: your child may wake up screaming, but unable to explain the fear. Sometimes children who have Night Terrors remember a frightening image, but often they remember nothing. Though Night Terrors can be alarming for parents who witness them, they're not usually a cause for concern or a sign of a deeper medical issue. Most children outgrow sleep terrors by adolescence.

Nightmares are disturbing dreams associated with negative feelings, such as anxiety or fear. Nightmares seem real, often becoming more disturbing as the dream unfolds. Nightmares can be triggered by a frightening or stressful event, a fever or illness, or use of some medications or alcohol. They may begin in childhood and tend to decrease after about age 10. However, some people have them as teens or adults, or throughout their lives. They may become a problem if you have them frequently and they cause you to fear going to sleep or keep you from sleeping well.

Learn more about untreated Sleep Apnea and its association to Heart Disease, Diabetes and Accidents.

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Benefits of
SUCCESSFUL TREATMENT:

  • Reduce the risk of stroke, heart and blood pressure problems
  • Decrease blood glucose levels by decreasing insulin resistance
  • Reduce feelings of daytime fatigue and sleepiness
  • Decrease oxidative stress and inflammation in the body
  • Improve the patient and their bed partners quality of life
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