A sleep disorder (somnipathy) is a medical disorder of the sleep patterns of a person. Some sleep disorders are serious enough to interfere with normal physical, mental, and emotional functioning.
Since the complexity and number of sleep disorders is very large, I will focus on the most common types of sleep disorders. There are four main categories of sleep disorders; dysomnias, parasomnias, sleeping sickness, and snoring.
4 main categories of Sleep Disorders
Dysomnias are sleep disorders characterized by insomnia or the inability to fall asleep. Parasomnias are sleep disorders such as sleepwalking, bedwetting, sleep talking, and exploding head syndrome (waking up at night hearing loud noises). Sleeping sickness is a parasitic disease which can be transmitted by the Tsetse fly which can result in sleeping problems. The fourth category ‘snoring’ is not a disorder by itself but can be a symptom of deeper problems.
Common Causes of Sleep Disorders
Changes in lifestyle such as shift work change is a common cause of sleep disorders because the ‘internal sleep clock’ in our bodies may have trouble adjusting to a shift in sleeping patterns.
Other problems that can affect sleep are anxiety, back pain, chronic pain, neck pain, and caffeine. Psychological problems can also have a negative effect on sleeping patterns.
Sleep disorder treatments can be grouped into four categories:
- Behavioral treatments
- Rehabilitation & management
- Other somatic treatments
These general treatment categories by themselves are not sufficient for all patients with sleep disorders. The choice of a specific treatment depends on many factors such as the patient’s diagnosis, medical and psychiatric history, patient preferences, and the expertise of the treating clinician. For many patients, a combination of behavioral and medication treatment can be used to maximize therapeutic benefits.
For people with chronic insomnia, behavioral treatment such as a change in lifestyle may be more effective than using medication. People with back and neck pain, a therapeutic massage may be the most practical method to reduce or eliminate pain thereby promoting better sleep. Narcolepsy is a condition in which a person falls asleep unexpectedly regardless of their surroundings. Medication may be a better solution to treat narcolepsy because it tends to be more of a physical condition instead of a psychological condition.
Blood Pressure and Sleep Deprivation
Besides feeling more alert and positive, getting sufficient sleep every night is good for your blood pressure. In June 2008, researchers from Penn State College of Medicine discovered that people who sleep less than 5 hours a night are 5 times more likely to have high blood pressure than people who sleep 7 or 8 hours a night. Researchers studied 1,741 people and the link between sleep problems and high blood pressure, and found that those people at the highest risk of hypertension slept very few hours per night and had insomnia.
Advances in Sleep Medicine
Due to rapidly increasing knowledge about sleep in the 20th century, the medical importance of sleep was recognized. By the 1970’s in the US, clinics and laboratories devoted to the study of sleep and sleep disorders had been founded and a need for standards arose.
Sleep medicine has now become a recognized subspecialty within internal medicine, pediatrics, family medicine, and psychiatry.
Sleep dentistry, while not recognized as one of the nine dental specialties, qualifies for board certification by the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine (ABDSM). These ‘sleep dentists’ collaborate with sleep doctors at accredited sleep centers to treat or manage sleep related breathing disorders.
3 Factors That Might Cause Sleep Disorders
The impression is growing that to a large extent, many cases of obstructive sleep apnea and snoring may be related to Western culture. The risk of significant obstructive sleep apnea increases with the numerous factors described below, many of which are problems currently rampant in our society. Correction of OBSTRUCTIVE SLEEP APNEA (OSA) generally requires that these factors be eliminated. At times, elimination of these factors completely resolves the problem.
Excessive weight brought about by a sedentary lifestyle, too many rich foods, or by medically related situations such as thyroid problems, is probably the leading factor contributing to OBSTRUCTIVE SLEEP APNEA (OSA). Bed partners almost invariably make the observation that the larger their snoring spouse becomes, the louder the snoring bellows, and the more often they hear snoring pauses followed by snorts, and a resumption of breathing (i.e., apneas — episodes of obstructed breathing). Conversely, in a large percentage of patients, weight loss down to an ideal weight has reversed the process.
Smoking has numerous undesirable effects on the body. Most pertinent to OBSTRUCTIVE SLEEP APNEA (OSA) are the obstructions to the airway which cigarette smoking causes: swelling of the mucous membrane in the nose, swelling of the tissue in the throat, and blockage of the small vessels in the lungs. Therefore, add this to another list of reasons why you should stop this nasty habit.