Sleep Disorder Research – Symptoms, Causes & Treatments

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream: A Guide to Facts and Information about Sleep Disorders

Sleep disorders have been around throughout recorded history. In Shakespeare’s time, sleep and dreams were surrounded by an array of rituals and remedies for curing sleep disorders, promoting sleep, and preventing nightmares. Today, sleep disorders continue to be a common problem among millions of people across the world.

What is Sleep… and why it is important?

If there are sleep disorders, there must also be normal sleep.

The onset of sleep is triggered by the release of melatonin, a natural body hormone. Toward dawn, melatonin shuts off as the hormone cortisol increases, signaling the body to wake up.

Normal sleep follows a 90 minute cycle that repeats throughout the night. In this cycle, there are periods of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep alternating with periods of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep.

About 75% of this cycle is made up of NREM sleep during which the body temperature, breathing rate and heart rate all drop. It is also during this deep NREM sleep when energy is restored and tissue repair occurs.

REM sleep is when the brain is active and dreams occur. These periods of REM sleep help provide energy to the brain and prepare the body for daytime activities. Sleep is important because normal sleep patterns determine how energetic and healthy you feel.

How much sleep does a person need? That depends on a number of factors:

  • Age – young children need more sleep than adults and the child may sleep as much as 10 hours a night. A healthy adult will normally get about 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night… but may get as little as 5.
  • Physical condition – A healthy person needs less sleep than someone who is sick. Since body repairs occur during sleep, it is normal for a sick person to sleep more, and more often, than someone who is healthy.
  • Psychological health – If you are psychologically unhealthy, you may sleep much more or much less than when you are spiritually and mentally healthy.

If you feel good and are refreshed in the morning after sleeping, you are probably getting the right amount of sleep.

Insomnia Guide: Facts, Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

What do Bill Clinton, Marilyn Monroe, Charles Dickens, Madonna and Ben Franklin have in common? Other than being well-known, they all suffered from insomnia!

What is Insomnia?

Simply stated, insomnia is defined as sleeplessness. Insomnia is the most common form of sleep disorder and involves an inability to go to sleep or stay asleep. Insomnia may also be defined as waking up too early in the morning or experiencing sleep that is not refreshing. If you have insomnia, sooner or later it will begin to affect your waking hours and you will begin to notice that you are less productive during the day.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine in collaboration with other international sleep groups developed “The International Classification of Sleep Disorders (ICSD)” which classifies sleep disorders as either dyssomnias (disorders that produce insomnia or excessive sleepiness) or parasomnias (disorders that occur during sleep but do not produce insomnia or sleepiness). Insomnia is one of the dyssomnias.

How many hours of sleep is enough? Insomnia is not defined by the number of hours you sleep each night since the amount of sleep a person needs varies. Most adults need between seven and eight hours of sleep each night, but that number varies from person to person — and from night to night. Sleep requirements will also be influenced by your general health. Children will typically need ten to twelve hours of sleep each night.

Parasomnia: A complex sleep disorder

What is the definition of Parasomnia?

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine in collaboration with other international sleep groups developed “The International Classification of Sleep Disorders (ICSD)” which classifies sleep disorders as either dyssomnias (disorders that produce insomnia or excessive sleepiness) or parasomnias (disorders that occur during sleep but do not produce insomnia or sleepiness).

The word “parasomnia” is derived from the Latin and translates as “around sleep”. A parasomnia is a group of sleep disorders in which you perform undesirable behaviors while you are asleep — but which do not cause you to be sleepy the next day.

Different Types of Parasomnia

The physical changes in the body that occur with parasomnias are unknown and may vary with the individual type of parasomnia. In some of the disorders, different parts of the brain may be inappropriately inactivated or activated. In addition, some of the disorders occur during REM sleep while others occur during non-REM sleep.

Night Terrors or Nightmares? How to Tell the Difference

You are getting ready for bed when you hear a blood curdling scream coming from your child’s room. When you run into the room, you see him sitting straight up in bed, eyes wide open and shaking violently. As you calm him, your son lies down and goes back to sleep. Although you are now wide awake, he sleeps through the rest of the night and has no memory of the event the next morning. What just happened? Nightmare? Or night terror?

What are Night Terrors?

Night Terrors are officially called Sleep Terrors. The disorder is also called pavor nocturnus in children or incubus attack in adults. Sleep Terrors is one of the sleep disorders recognized by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine in “The International Classification of Sleep Disorders (ICSD)”. In this classification, sleep terror disorder is categorized as a parasomnia associated with being aroused from a very deep sleep. In this disorder, the person with night terrors is neither fully asleep nor fully awake.

Sleep Apnea: Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment

What is sleep apnea: A simple definition

Sleep apnea is a chronic sleep disorder which is characterized by interruption of breathing during sleep. Breathing interruptions can be of two types:

  • Apnea. Total blockage of airflow for 10 or more seconds due to the relaxation of the muscles and soft tissues of the throat.
  • Hypopnea. Results in partially blocked airway reducing the airflow by greater than 50% for 10 seconds or more.

As a result, in sleep apnea patients, the breathing either stops completely or becomes shallow for around 10-20 seconds. These pauses in breathing can be as numerous as 20 to 30 times per hour.

Types of Sleep Apnea

Though there are various types of sleep apnea, all types are characterized by interrupted breathing leading to decreased oxygen inhalation. This results in the reduction of blood oxygen levels which acts as a trigger for the brain to reinitiate the breathing mechanism. The patient gasps, and the breathing starts, until the next breathing pause happens. This process is repeated multiple times during sleep.

Sleep Deprivation: What it is and What it Means to You

Sleep deprivation, insufficient nocturnal sleep, sleep reduction, and inadequate sleep – all names for the same syndrome – and all equally disruptive if you suffer from the problem! Regardless of what you call it, sleep deprivation can occur at any time to anyone – and the difference between the need for sleep and the amount of sleep you get may be enormous.

Alarm Clock

A normal, healthy person who gets enough sleep does not need an alarm clock to wake up in the morning yet over half of all Americans report that they need an alarm clock to wake up. Because alarm clocks interrupt the normal sleep cycle, if you need an alarm clock to get up in the morning, you may find yourself suffering from sleep deprivation – and with the resulting lack of energy.

What is Sleep Deprivation?

The International Classification of Sleep Disorders (ICSD) calls sleep deprivation “insufficient sleep syndrome” and defines the syndrome as “a disorder that occurs in an individual who persistently fails to obtain sufficient nocturnal sleep required to support normally alert wakefulness”. In the ICSD, sleep deprivation is categorized as a dyssomnia that originates from causes outside of the body. A dyssomnia is a sleep disorder that produces difficulty going to sleep or staying asleep resulting in excessive sleepiness. Stedman’s Medical Dictionary defines sleep deprivation more simply as “a lack of sufficient sleep over a period of time that causes physical or psychiatric symptoms and affects routine performance of tasks”.

Sleep deprivation is different from insomnia. If you have insomnia, you have problems going to sleep or staying asleep. Insomnia may lead to sleep deprivation which simply means you are not getting enough quality sleep. As a matter of fact, many of the recognized sleep disorders may lead to sleep deprivation.

Old Hag Syndrome or Alien Abduction? The Truth about Sleep Paralysis

The Nightmare

You awaken with a heavy feeling on your chest, unable to breathe, scream or move. You hear, see and feel different sensations — but you are helpless to do anything about it. This sort of experience has been reported in popular literature as alien abduction. While not extraterrestrial, the truth behind these events is just as interesting — sleep paralysis!

What is Sleep Paralysis?

Sleep paralysis (SP) is a sleep disorder recognized by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine in “The International Classification of Sleep Disorders (ICSD)”. In this classification, sleep paralysis is categorized as a parasomnia associated with rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. A parasomnia is a sleep disorder that interrupts or occurs during sleep.

The ICSD defines sleep paralysis as “a transient, generalized inability to move or speak during the transition between sleep and wakefulness”. The paralysis may occur just as you are falling to sleep or as you are beginning to wake up. During normal REM dreaming sleep, the brain has turned off most of the body’s muscle function so you cannot act out your dreams — SP is a protective mechanism in which you are temporarily paralyzed. The paralysis typically only lasts for a few seconds to a few minutes, but it is common to feel extreme anxiety during the episode.

Snore No More: How to Stop Snoring

Definition of Snoring

Snoring is the sound made by the movement of air over relaxed throat and tongue muscles in the respiratory passage while breathing. The sound may be soft and unnoticeable or it may be loud, unpleasant and disturbing.

Snoring may be the result of another sleep disorder — and may also cause sleep apnea. Sleep apnea means that there are periods during the snoring episode when you actually stop breathing for extended periods of time.

Types of Snoring

  • Primary snoring. Also called simple or benign snoring because it happens without periods of apnea and does not create other health problems. In primary snoring, the snoring is continuous with upper airway sounds and the sleeper typically does not wake up — unless awakened by a sleep partner.
  • Secondary Snoring. Occurs in the presence of another sleep disorder. This sleep disorder is typically obstructive sleep apnea. In secondary sleep apnea, the sufferer WILL usually awaken several times during the night as air is blocked, oxygen decreases and carbon dioxide increases.

Causes of Snoring: What are the various reasons for snoring?

Snoring, especially loud snoring, may be a sign that there is a problem in a person’s respiratory tract or airways. The structures commonly involved in snoring are the uvula and the soft palate. The soft palate is the soft part situated at the roof of the mouth. And the uvula is the fleshy tissue hanging from the centre of the soft palate and over the back of the tongue.

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