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The Center for Sleep Medicine
A sleep disorder can be any medical condition that interferes with your ability to sleep restfully on a consistent basis. There are over 80 sleep disorders, however common sleep disorders include obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), narcolepsy, insomnia, periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD) and restless leg syndrome (RLS). The most common sleep disorder is obstructive sleep apnea.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea, or simply 'sleep apnea,' is a disorder in which breathing is briefly and repeatedly interrupted during sleep. The "apnea" in sleep apnea refers to a breathing pause that lasts at least ten seconds. OSA occurs when the muscles in the back of the throat fail to keep the airway fully open, despite efforts to breathe. When the body realizes this, it reacts by waking the person momentarily to take a breath and reopen the airway. This is what causes the gasping that bed partners recognize between bouts of snoring.
OSA is a serious, potentially life-threatening breathing disorder which affects an estimated 20 million Americans, equally as common as asthma and diabetes. Estimates suggest that up to 85-90% of individuals with sleep apnea go undiagnosed and untreated.
Cardiovascular disease, diabetes and stroke are all commonly known health concerns. OSA can play a major role in the development of these conditions.
Central Sleep Apnea
CSA is rarer than obstructive sleep apnea. In this disorder, the problem is not that there is an "obstruction." In fact, the airway remains open while you sleep. The problem is that the chest and diaphragm muscles fail for a short period of time. When the oxygen levels drop to a certain point, the brain signals the body and you can wake up gasping for breath. It doesn’t have the loud snoring signals that obstructive has. Even though CSA sufferers do not snore, they still have the after-effects of being extremely tired the next day.
All sleep apnea types can be treated by sleep specialists and it is important to seek medical help if you feel you may be experiencing any of the types of sleep apnea.
Although many people consider snoring to be a sign of a nice, restful, deep sleep, it actually is a sign of an underlying problem, such as Obstructive Sleep Apnea. What’s troubling, as well, is that snoring can also affect children, and a clinical study found that children ages 6-11 years (boys) were twice as likely to have sleep disordered-breathing than girls.
With today's technology at our fingertips, literally 24/7, we spend a lot of time on our computers, tablets and smartphones either doing work or communicating through social networks. So it's extremely tempting to stay up late, connecting with friends, work, school or movies. The AASM reminds us that "habitually sleeping less than six hours a night significantly increases the risk of stroke symptoms among middle-aged to older adults who are of normal weight and at low risk for obstructive sleep apnea." Add to that the fact that less than six hours of sleep increases your "generic risks for obesity."
One third of adult Americans suffer with insomnia. The Journal of Clinical Sleep defines insomnia as difficulty falling – or staying – asleep. So, despite the opportunity to sleep, the decrease in sleep quality can result in some form of daytime impairment. Spending the night tossing and turning is exasperating enough in and of itself. But insomnia can result in serious consequences during the day. If these symptoms sound all too familiar, you might be suffering from insomnia. It would be wise to communicate to your family physician your inability to get a good night’s sleep. He/she may prescribe a sleep study to assist in finding the underlying cause of your restless, sleepless nights.