An estimated 50-70 million Americans suffer from a sleep disorder according to the CDC. Of these, at least 60 percent have a chronic disorder. It is important to understand common sleep disorders and how to recognize their symptoms.
Explore the 5 most common sleep disorders:
Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder, affecting 20-40 percent of adults at some point in their lives. According to a 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.
Symptoms of insomnia include lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, and decreased performance at work. But continued insomnia can lead to depression and decreased quality of life.
Treatments include medical, such as sleep aids, and non-medical, such as mediation or cognitive behavioral therapy.
Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder caused by the brain’s inability to regulate wake cycles normally. The symptoms include fatigue and sleep attacks – sudden, irresistible sleep. It may be treated with stimulants, combined with behavioral changes such as daytime naps.
Narcolepsy affects as many as 200,000 Americans, according to Narcolepsy Network.
Restless Legs Syndrome
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a neurological disorder characterized by odd sensations – throbbing, pulling creeping – in the legs, generally when the patient is trying to relax or sleep. Moving the legs relieves the symptoms temporarily. Treatments include medicine, lifestyle changes, and finding other related medical conditions that may be contributing to the RLS.
About 10 percent of Americans may have RLS, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Sleep apnea occurs when a person’s breathing stops for several seconds during the night because of blockage in the upper respiratory systems. Think snoring, but with choking and snorting. The disorder often goes undiagnosed unless a partner or someone who sleeps with the patient has noticed the lack of breathing, or choking during sleep.
There are two types of sleep apnea: obstructive and central. Obstructive occurs when the airways collapse or is blocked. Central occurs when the brain doesn’t communicate with the breathing muscles. Obstructive is more common.
However, untreated sleep apnea increases several serious health conditions, including heart failure. Treatments include lifestyle changes, mouthpieces, and surgery. Sleep apnea is not just for grownups. Learn more about obstructive sleep apnea in children.
Night terrors are more than nightmares. Night terrors are sleep disruptions that cause sudden waking with screaming and intense fear. Night terrors occur in the deepest stage of non-REM sleep, so you won’t remember the night terror the next day like you would a nightmare. After a night terror, your breathing and heartbeat will quicken.
Sleep terrors are not common in adults, and mostly affect children ages 4-12. Children will likely outgrow the terrors by their teens. Therefore, treatment isn’t usually necessary. Experts suggest treating the stress or condition that seems to be causing the night terror.
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