There are a number of sleep disorders that can affect your health and happiness. At the Northwest Sleep Center we specialize in sleep disorders and sleep medicine. It is our goal to help you understand and diagnose those causes so that we can help you rest easy. Below you will find information about some of the most common sleep disorders we help diagnose.
Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder characterized by brief interruptions of breathing during sleep. These episodes usually last 10 seconds or more and occur repeatedly throughout the night. People with sleep apnea will partially awaken as they struggle to breathe, but in the morning they will not be aware of the disturbances in their sleep. The most common type of sleep apnea is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), caused by relaxation of soft tissue in the back of the throat that blocks the passage of air. Central sleep apnea (CSA) is caused by irregularities in the brain’s normal signals to breathe. Most people with sleep apnea will have a combination of both types. The hallmark symptom of the disorder is excessive daytime sleepiness. Additional symptoms of sleep apnea include restless sleep, loud snoring (with periods of silence followed by gasps), falling asleep during the day, morning headaches, trouble concentrating, irritability, forgetfulness, mood or behavior changes, anxiety, and depression. Not everyone who has these symptoms will have sleep apnea, but it is recommended that people who are experiencing even a few of these symptoms visit their doctor for evaluation. Sleep apnea is more likely to occur in men than women, and in people who are overweight or obese.
Excessive Daytime Sleepiness
Excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS) is characterized by persistent sleepiness and often a general lack of energy, even after apparently adequate or even prolonged night time sleep. EDS can be considered as a broad condition encompassing several sleep disorders where increased sleep is a symptom, or as a symptom of another underlying disorder like narcolepsy, sleep apnea or a circadian rhythm disorder.
Some persons with excessive daytime sleepiness (EDS), including those with hypersomnias like narcolepsy and idiopathic hypersomnia, are compelled to nap repeatedly during the day; fighting off increasingly strong urges to sleep during inappropriate times such as while driving, while at work, during a meal, or in conversations. As the compulsion to sleep intensifies, the ability to complete tasks sharply diminishes, often mimicking the appearance of intoxication. During occasional unique and/or stimulating circumstances, a person with EDS can sometimes remain animated, awake and alert, for brief or extended periods of time. Excessive daytime sleepiness can affect the ability to function in family, social, occupational, or other settings. A proper diagnosis of the underlying cause and ultimately treatment of symptoms and/or the underlying cause can help mitigate such complications.
Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is a neurological disorder characterized by throbbing, pulling, creeping, or other unpleasant sensations in the legs and an uncontrollable, and sometimes overwhelming, urge to move them. Symptoms occur primarily at night when a person is relaxing or at rest and can increase in severity during the night. Moving the legs relieves the discomfort. Often called paresthesias (abnormal sensations) or dysesthesias (unpleasant abnormal sensations), the sensations range in severity from uncomfortable to irritating to painful.
As many as 10 percent of the U.S. population may have RLS. Several studies have shown that moderate to severe RLS affects approximately 2-3 percent of adults (more than 5 million individuals). An additional 5 percent appears to be affected by a milder form. Childhood RLS is estimated to affect almost 1 million school-age children, with one-third having moderate to severe symptoms. Some people with RLS will not seek medical attention, believing that they will not be taken seriously, that their symptoms are too mild, or that their condition is not
treatable. Some physicians wrongly attribute the symptoms to nervousness, insomnia, stress, arthritis, muscle cramps, or aging.
RLS occurs in both men and women, although the incidence is about twice as high in women. It may begin at any age. Many individuals who are severely affected are middle-aged or older, and the symptoms typically become more frequent and last longer with age. More than 80 percent of people with RLS also experience a more common condition known as periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD).
Periodic Limb Movement Disorder
Periodic limb movement disorder occurs when limbs move during sleep in clustered episodes that can last minutes or hours. Patients who suffer from restless leg syndrome experience discomfort when resting that is temporarily relieved by movement. Patients who suffer from both of these conditions experience fatigue due to a lack of quality sleep and medication is often used to treat them.