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Sleep Disorders: Information, Diagnosis & Treatment

  • Synopsis: Information on common sleep disorders including sleep apnea snoring narcolepsy and restless leg syndrome.

Definition: Defining the Meaning of Sleep Disorder

A sleep disorder, or somnipathy, is a medical disorder of the sleep patterns of a person or animal. Some sleep disorders are serious enough to interfere with normal physical, mental, social and emotional functioning. Polysomnography and actigraphy are tests commonly ordered for some sleep disorders.

Main Document

Is it hard for you to fall asleep or stay asleep though the night? Do you wake up feeling tired or feel very sleepy during the day, even if you have had enough sleep? You might have a sleep disorder. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, about 40 million people in the United States suffer from chronic long-term sleep disorders each year and an additional 20 million people suffer occasional sleep problems.

In fact there are more than 70 different sleep disorders that are generally classified into one of three categories:

Sleep disorders are 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. A test commonly ordered for some sleep disorders is the polysomnogram.

Nightmares, night terrors, sleepwalking, sleep talking, head banging, wetting the bed and grinding your teeth are kinds of sleep problems called parasomnias.

Dyssomnias are a broad category of sleep disorders characterized by either hypersomnolence or insomnia. The three major subcategories include intrinsic (i.e., arising from within the body), extrinsic (secondary to environmental conditions or various pathologic conditions), and disturbances of circadian rhythm.

Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder and it occurs more often in women and in the elderly. Medications and somatic treatments may provide the most rapid symptomatic relief from some sleep disturbances. Some disorders, such as narcolepsy, are best treated pharmacologically. Others, such as chronic and primary insomnia, may be more amenable to behavioral interventions, with more durable results.

The amount of sleep that a person needs to function normally depends on several factors (e.g., age). Infants sleep most of the day (about 16 hours); teenagers usually need about 9 hours a day; and adults need an average of 7 to 8 hours a day.

The most common sleep disorders include:

FIU study reveals sleep-deprived teens at greater risk for health and behavioral problems:

Adolescents who get six hours of sleep or less may face health and behavior issues, particularly those who get five hours of sleep per night on a regular basis.

Transition Point of Falling Asleep

How can we tell when someone has fallen asleep

Understanding the process of falling asleep is an important problem in neuroscience and sleep medicine. Researchers have replaced a standard measure, the behavioral response task, which uses sounds that can disturb sleep, with a new task centered on a subject's focused natural breathing - an act which may even promote sleep. They modeled the physiological and behavioral changes occurring during sleep onset as a continuum that can develop gradually over time. The identification of some subjects who continued to perform the task even though current clinical measures would say they were asleep suggests a natural variation in the way cortical and thalamic networks interact in these people. Ultimately, such methods could greatly improve clinicians ability to diagnose sleep disorders and to more precisely measure the effects of sleep drugs and other medications.

Future work will look to improve the understanding of the mechanisms underlying neural dynamics during sleep, as well as the development of more sophisticated diagnostic and monitoring tools.

Sleep Disorder Awareness

Black awareness ribbonThe Sleep Disorders Awareness Ribbon color is black, and the month of May is U.S. National Sleep Disorder Awareness month.

Quick Facts: Good Sleep Habit

The promotion of good sleep habits and regular sleep is known as sleep hygiene. The following sleep hygiene tips can be used to improve sleep.

Statistics: Sleep Disorder



Latest Sleep Disorders Publications

Full List of Sleep Disorders Documents (32 Items)




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