How many Zzzzz’s are you catching every night? For an estimated 50-70 million Americans, sleep is disrupted by a sleep disorder. There are three main types of sleep disorders that individuals can suffer from, each providing their own challenges.

Insomnia – This disorder is presented through difficulty falling or staying asleep. Sufferers may wake in the middle of the night and not be able to get back to sleep. This can often leave them tired throughout the day, which can create memory and concentration issues. Insomnia has many causes: certain medicines and drugs, chronic pain, depression, stress, anxiety, or loss of a loved one. When there is no clear causation for the insomnia, it is called “primary insomnia.” Insomnia caused by time-sensitive stressors may resolve itself, while a longer lasting condition may prompt you to see a specialist. Cognitive-behavioral therapy has shown to be effective for many cases of insomnia.

Narcolepsy – Narcolepsy is quite different from insomnia; it is a chronic neurological disorder that often presents itself through excessive daytime sleepiness. It often occurs with other symptoms like hallucinations, sleep paralysis, and cataplexy. Sleep paralysis is when you wake up and momentarily are not able to move your body. This is known to happen in people without narcolepsy, but it is not a guaranteed sign that you have narcolepsy. Another symptom, Cataplexy, is a sudden loss of muscle function while the sufferer is conscious, lasting anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. It is often triggered by sudden emotions like anger, fear, or laughter. Narcolepsy is thought to be caused by a lack of the brain chemical hypocretin, and comes from the part of the brain that controls falling asleep. Onset of narcolepsy may be sudden or gradual. There is not a cure for narcolepsy, but some symptoms are able to be controlled with medications. In addition, lifestyle adaptations can benefit the sufferer.

Sleep Apnea – Sleep apnea, a sleep disorder in which the individual has interrupted breathing while sleeping, comes in two forms: obstructive and central. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat fail to keep open the airway. Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain fails to control breathing properly during sleep. Some risk factors for sleep apnea include being over 40, being male, being overweight, having a large neck size, having large tonsils or tongue, having a small jaw bone, a family history of sleep apnea, or nasal obstruction. If not treated, the individual may suffer from high blood pressure, diabetes, heart failure or irregular heartbeats, depression, worsening of ADHD, headaches, or stroke. In some cases, weight loss or surgical options may better the disorder. The leading therapy for sleep apnea is by sleeping with a CPAP machine. Individuals wear a face or nasal mask that provides a flow of air into the nasal passages in order to keep the airway open while sleeping.

If you think you may have any of these sleep disorders, don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor or our Respiratory Therapist to talk about your symptoms. Sweet dreams!

Article by Makayla Smith / Intern at Byrd-Watson