Sleep :

Sleep Disorders Common

Julie Swidwa, The Herald-Palladium, St. Joseph, Mich.

Sleep disorders are conditions that prevent a person from getting restful sleep, They can result in daytime sleepiness and other problems.

Doctors have identified more than 80 types of sleep disorders, and an estimated 70 million Americans suffer from one or more. Experts list the following as some of the most common sleep disorders:

-- Obstructive sleep apnea, which is the temporary cessation of breathing due to a blockage of the upper airways during sleep, resulting in many sleep interruptions every hour. The awakenings are rarely remembered, and therefore many sleep apnea sufferers are unaware that they have it. Symptoms include loud snoring, daytime sleepiness, high blood pressure, obesity, increased irritability or depression and decreased concentration and productivity.

-- Insomnia, which makes it difficult for the sufferer to fall asleep or stay asleep. Symptoms include waking up too early in the morning, waking up often during the night and having at least one of the following: fatigue, sleepiness, problems with mood or concentration, and accidents at work or while driving.

-- Jet lag, also known as time-zone change, in which traveling across time zones disrupts a person's sleep patterns. It occurs because the traveler's internal "clock" is out of sync with the new time zone. Symptoms include difficulty falling asleep, difficulty waking up and disrupted sleep, all leading to daytime sleepiness, headache and general malaise. Jet lag is a common problem for travelers, and more common in people over 50 than in those under 30. Frequent travelers can develop chronic jet lag symptoms.

-- Shift work. The constant changing of sleep patterns in people who change shifts often or work overnight shifts has been linked to gastrointestinal and cardiovascular disease, increases in alcohol and tranquilizer use and chronic trouble sleeping. About 20 million U.S. workers, or about 22 percent of the work force, are shift workers.

-- Restless Leg Syndrome, characterized by aching, itching, tingling and burning in the lower legs as the sufferer is falling asleep and typically requiring a person to get up and walk around for relief. The aching may also be accompanied by periodic limb movements that may continue for minutes or hours. It typically develops in middle age and appears to run in families. RLS occurs in about 2 to 5 percent of adults.

-- Sleepwalking, which is most common in children and is thought to be caused by a partial arousal from deep sleep. While the child's brainwaves are those of deep sleep, the sleepwalker moves as though awake. The episodes are typically brief -- less than 10 minutes -- and usually occur during the first three hours of sleep. The sleepwalker usually has no recollection of the event in the morning. Sleepwalking occurs in more than 10 percent of children and appears to run in families. Most children outgrow it. Sleepwalking episodes may be triggered by fever or some medications. Unpredictable sleep schedules, sleep deprivation and stress may also contribute to sleepwalking episodes.

-- Narcolepsy, which is a neurological disorder of sleep regulation that affects the control of sleep and wakefulness. People with narcolepsy experience excessive daytime sleepiness and intermittent, uncontrollable episodes of falling asleep during the day. This can happen suddenly in mid-sentence, while at work or behind the wheel of a car. Narcolepsy usually begins between ages 15 and 25 but can become apparent at any age. In many cases it is undiagnosed and, therefore, untreated.

-- Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder. In this condition, a person's biological clock shifts to earlier hours -- typically falling asleep before 9 p.m. and awakening between 3 and 5 a.m. and failing to return to sleep. This condition occurs most often in older people, and some doctors believe it is more a normal consequence of aging than a disorder.

Sources: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the Cleveland Clinic and the UCSF Medical Center

©2012 The Herald-Palladium (Saint Joseph, Mich.)

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