Sleep Disorders

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Sleep Disorder Facts

  • For an estimated 5 in 100 people – often overweight middle-aged men – extremely loud habitual snoring is the first indication of a life-threatening disorder.
  • Sleep disorder specialists believe sleepy drivers are more of a hazard than drunk drivers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drowsy drivers cause more than 1500 fatalities and 71,000 injuries each year. That’s why rumble strips were developed for highways.
  • In sleep apnea, the effort to breathe is similar to slurping a drink through a floppy wet straw.
  • Sleep apnea sufferers are likely to derive limited benefit from medication.

Sleep Disorder FAQs

How do I know if I have a sleep disorder?

Sleep is absolutely essential for normal, healthy function. About 40 million people in the United States suffer from chronic long-term sleep disorders each year and an additional 20 million people experience occasional sleep problems. There are many different types of sleep disorders, ranging from mild to severe cases. To diagnose these disorders your physician or specialist will refer you to undergo a sleep study

Spouses or bed partners are most likely to notice a sleep disorder in their partners. They notice respiratory pauses and loud snoring.

The most common type of sleep disorder is sleep apnea. Other sleep disorders include, Hypopnea, Insomnia, Restless Leg Syndrome, Narcolepsy, Rapid Eye Movement Behavior Disorder, Hypersomnia, Bruxism, and some other less common disorders such as delayed sleep phase syndrome, night terrors, parasomnia and sleep paralysis.

What are the warning signs of sleep apnea?

a) Snoring may rival a jackhammer, and can be heard in other rooms, or even by neighbors.

b) Loud snoring can be a signal that something is wrong with breathing during sleep.

c) Snoring indicates that the airway is not fully open, and that the distinctive sound of snoring comes from efforts to force air through the narrowed passageway. A particular pattern is snoring interrupted by pauses, then gasps. This means the sleeper’s breathing stops and restarts. Some people do not breathe at all for three-quarters of their sleep time.

d) People with sleep apnea may notice they are waking up frequently, gasping for air, and thrashing about in their sleep.

e) They may complain about morning headaches and loss of interest in sex. Men may complain about erectile failure.

f) Sleep apnea can produce extreme sleepiness during the day.

g) Persons with sleep apnea may fall asleep at inappropriate times, such as at work or driving.

h) Persons with sleep apnea may have trouble concentrating. They can become unusually forgetful, irritable, anxious, or depressed.

i). Family members, employers or coworkers may notice a pattern of changes in mood or behavior.

What are the dangers of sleep disorders?

People with sleep apnea may become sleepy during the day; their sleepiness may interfere with their work and personal life.

a) Sleep apnea sufferers are five times more likely to have a car accident than are those who don’t suffer from this disorder. The National Highway Association estimates that drowsy drivers cause 100,000 automobile crashes each year.

b) Researchers are linking sleep problems to risk of death. More people die in the early morning hours than at any other time of day, presumably with some association to sleep.

c) There is a strong association between illness and death rates and how long an individual reports sleeping each night.

d) People with sleep apnea don’t breathe properly during sleep. They don’t get enough oxygen. The resulting lack of sleep can trigger high blood pressure, acid reflux, heart attack, cardiac arrhythmia, congestive heart failure and stroke.

e) Sleep disorders have an enormous impact upon quality of life. Millions of individuals live much of their lives in a fog of sleepiness and fatigue.

What causes sleep disorders?

Here is what causes sleep apnea, the most common sleep disorder:

a) The muscles used in breathing relax more during sleep than they do during waking hours. Specifically, the fleshy tissue that hangs from the center of the soft palate relaxes and sags.

b) In some people, the muscles relax too much. This relaxation interferes with breathing and makes sleep a time of increased risk.

c) In these cases, collapse of the airway walls blocks breathing entirely. As pressure to breathe increases, muscles of the diaphragm and chest work harder. Sleep is then temporarily interrupted with a gasp, and breathing starts again.

d) Each gasp awakens the sleeper momentarily. Often the sleeper does not remember waking. Someone with obstructive sleep apnea may stop breathing for 10 seconds or longer dozens – even hundreds – of times each night.

e) These physical conditions may cause sleep apnea:
– A smaller-than-normal jaw
– Large tongue
– Enlarged tonsils
– Tissues that partially block the entrance to the airway
– Overweight, especially in males

f) These lifestyle choices may contribute to airway collapse:
– Alcohol consumption before bedtime
– Sleeping pills
– Tranquilizers taken at bedtime