Sleep Disorders – facts about sleep disorders

Sleep disordersUnderstanding the importance of sleep

Sleep us an important part of your daily routine, you spend one-third of your time sleeping. However, the quality of sleep is another subject. Others do not get enough quality sleep, which is as essential to survival as food and water. With sleep disorders, you can’t perform or maintain the pathways in your brain that let you learn and create new memories, and it is harder to concentrate and respond quickly.

Sleep is important to a number of brain functions, including how nerve cells communicate with each other. In fact, your brain and body stay remarkably active while you sleep. Recent researches suggest that sleep plays an important role that removes toxins in your brain that build up while you are awake.

Everyone needs sleep, but its biological purpose remains a mystery. Sleep affects almost every type of tissue and system in the body- from the brain, heart, and lungs to metabolism, immune function, mood, and diseases such as diabetes, depression, and obesity.

Sleep disordersthe basic anatomy of sleep

Several structures within the brain are involved with sleep.

Sleep disorders – the basic anatomy of sleep #1 Hypothalamus

Peanut-Sized structured deep inside the brain contains groups of nerve cells that act as control centers affecting sleep and arousal. Within the hypothalamus is the suprachiasmatic nucleus or SCN – clusters of thousands of cells that receive information about light exposure directly from the eyes and control your behavioral rhythm. Some people with damage to the SCN sleep erratically throughout the day because they are not able to match their circadian rhythms with the light-dark cycle. Most blind people maintain some ability to sense light and are able to modify their sleep/wake cycle.

Sleep disorders – the basic anatomy of sleep #2 Brain Stem

The brain stem at the base of the brain, communicate with the hypothalamus to control the transitions between wake and sleep. Sleep promoting cells within the hypothalamus and the brain stem produce a brain chemical called GABA, which acts to reduce the activity of arousal centers in the hypothalamus and the brain stem. The brain stem also plays a special role in REM sleep, it sends signals to relax muscles essential for body posture and limb movements, so that we don’t act out our dreams.

Sleep disorders – the basic anatomy of sleep #3 The Thalamus

The thalamus acts as a relay for information from the sensor to the cerebral cortex. During most stages of sleep, the thalamus becomes quiet, letting you tune out the external world. However, during REM sleep, the thalamus is active, sending the cortex images, sounds, and other sensations that fill our dreams.

Sleep disorders – the basic anatomy of sleep #4 The pineal gland

The pineal gland, located within the brain’s 2 hemispheres, receives signals from the SCN and increases the production of the hormone melatonin, which helps put you to sleep once the lights go down. People who have lost their sight and cannot coordinate their natural sleep/wake cycle using natural light can stabilize their sleep patterns by taking small amounts of melatonin at the same time each day. Scientists believe that peaks and valleys of melatonin over time are important for matching the body’s circadian rhythm to the external cycle of light and darkness.

Sleep disorders – the basic anatomy of sleep #5 The basal forebrain

The basal forebrain, near the front and bottom of the brain, also promotes sleep and wakefulness, while part of the midbrain acts as an arousal system. Release of adenosine from cells in the basal forebrain and probably other regions support your sleep drive. Caffeine counteracts sleepiness by blocking the actions of adenosine.

Sleep disorders – the stages of sleep

Sleep disorders – the stages of sleep

There are 2 basic types of sleep, one is the rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-REM sleep. Each is linked to specific brain waves and neuronal activity. You cycle through all stages of non-REM and REM sleep several times during a typical night, with increasingly longer, deeper REM periods occurring toward morning.

Sleep disorders – Sleep stage #1

Stage 1 Non-REM sleep is the changeover from wakefulness to sleep. During this short period of relatively light sleep, your heartbeat, breathing, and eye movements slow, and your muscles relax with occasional twitches. Your brain waves begin to slow from their daytime wakefulness patterns.

Sleep disorders- Sleep stage #2

Stage 2 Non-REM sleep is a period of light sleep before you enter deeper sleep. Your heartbeat and breathing slow, and muscles relax even further. Your body temperature drops and eye movements stop. Brain wave activity slows but is marked by fried bursts of electrical activity. You spend more of your repeated sleep cycles in stage 2 sleep than in other sleep stages.

Sleep disorders – Sleep stage #3

Stage 3 non-REM sleep is the period of deep sleep that you need to feel refreshed in the morning. It occurs in longer periods during the first half of the night. Your heartbeat and breathing slow to their lowest levels during sleep. Your muscles are relaxed and it may be difficult to awaken you. Brain waves become even slower.

Sleep disorders – Sleep stage #4 REM Sleep

REM sleep first occurs about 90 minutes after falling asleep. Your eyes move rapidly from side to side behind closed eyelids. Mixed frequency brain wave activity becomes closer to that seen in wakefulness. Your breathing becomes faster and irregular, and your heart rate and blood pressure increase to near waking levels. Most of your dreaming occurs during REM sleep, although some can also occur in non-REM sleep. Your arm and leg muscles become temporarily paralyzed, which prevents you from acting out your dreams. As you age, you sleep less of your time in REM sleep. Memory consolidation most likely requires both non-REM and REM sleep.

Sleep disordersWhat are sleep disorders?

Now that we have gone through the importance of sleep, facts about sleep stages and the basic anatomy of sleep, we can now move on to the issue of sleep disorders. What is sleep disorders?

Sleep disorders are a group of conditions that affect the ability to sleep well on a regular basis. Whether they are caused by a health problem or by too much stress, sleep disorders are becoming increasingly common in the United States. In fact, more than 75% of Americans between the ages 20 to 59 report having sleeping difficulties fairly regularly.

Most people occasionally experience sleeping problems due to stress, hectic schedules, and other outside influences. However, when these issues begin to occur on a regular basis and interfere with daily life, they may indicate a sleeping disorder.

Depending on the type of sleep disorder, people may have a difficult time falling asleep and may feel extremely tired throughout the day. The lack of sleep can have a negative impact on energy, mood, concentration, and overall health.

In other cases, sleep disorders can be a symptom of another medical or mental health condition. These sleeping disorders may eventually go away once treatment is obtained for the underlying cause. When sleep disorders are not caused by another condition, treatment normally involves a combination of medical treatment and lifestyle changes.

It is important to receive a diagnosis and treatment right away if you suspect you might have a sleep disorder. When left untreated, the negative effects of sleep disorders can lead to further health consequences. They can also affect your performance at work, cause strain in relationships, and impair your ability to perform daily activities.

Sleep disorders – symptoms of sleep disorders

Symptoms can differ depending on the severity and type of sleeping disorder. They may also vary when sleep disorders are a result of another condition. However, general symptoms of sleep disorders include:

  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Daytime fatigue
  • Strong urge to take naps during the day
  • Irritability or anxiety
  • Lack of concentration
  • Depression and anxiety

Sleep disorders – causes of sleep disorders

There are many conditions, diseases, and disorders that can cause sleep disturbances. In many cases, sleep disorders develop as a result of an underlying health problem. Below are the lists of the possible causes of sleep disorders.

Sleep disorders – possible cause #1 – Respiratory problems or allergies.

Allergies, colds, and upper respiratory infections can make it challenging to breathe at night and therefore cause sleepless nights. The inability to breathe through your nose can also cause sleeping difficulties.

Sleep disorders possible cause #2 – Nocturia

What is nocturia? Nocturia is frequent urination at night, this might disrupt your sleep by causing you to wake up during the night. Hormonal imbalances and diseases of the urinary tract may contribute to the development of his condition.

Sleep disorders possible cause #3 – Chronic Pain

Constant pain can make it difficult to fall asleep. It might even wake you up after you fall asleep. Here are some of the most common causes of chronic pain:

  • Arthritis
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Persistent headaches
  • Continuous back pain

In some cases, chronic may even be exacerbated by sleep disorders. For instance, doctors believe the development of fibromyalgia might be linked to sleeping problems.

Sleep disorders possible cause #4 – Stress and Anxiety

Stress and anxiety often have a negative impact on sleep quality. It can be difficult for you to fall asleep or stay asleep. Nightmares sleep talking, or sleepwalking may also disrupt your sleep.

Sleep disorders – different types of sleep disorders

There are numerous different types of sleep disorders. Some may be caused by other underlying health conditions. Such as listed below:

Sleep disorder type #1 – Insomnia

Insomnia refers to the inability to fall asleep or to remain asleep. It can be caused by jet lag and anxiety, hormones, or digestive problems. It may also be a symptom of another condition. Insomnia can very problematic for your overall health and quality of life, potentially causing these problems in the long run:

  • Depression
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Weight gain
  • Impaired work or school performance.

Unfortunately, insomnia is extremely common all over the world. Approximately more than 60% of people from all over the globe experience it at some point in their lives. The disorder is most prevalent among older adults and women.

Insomnia is usually classified as one of the 3 types:

  1. Chronic – in which when insomnia happens on a regular basis for at least one month
  2. Intermittent – which is when insomnia occurs periodically
  3. Transient – which is when insomnia lasts for just a few nights at a time

Sleep disorders type #2 – Sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep. This is a serious medical condition that causes the body to take in less oxygen. It can also cause you to wake up during the night.

Sleep disorders type #3 – Parasomnias

Parasomnias are a class of sleep disorders that cause abnormal movements and behaviors during sleep. The behaviors may be:

  1. Sleepwalking
  2. Sleep talking
  3. Groaning
  4. Nightmares
  5. Bedwetting
  6. Teeth grinding or jaw clenching

Sleep disorders type #4  – Restless Leg Syndrome or RLS

Restless leg syndrome is an overwhelming need to move the legs. The urge is sometimes accompanied by a tingling sensation in the legs. While these symptoms can occur during the day, they are most prevalent at night. RLS is often associated with certain health conditions, including ADHD and Parkinson’s disease, but the exact cause isn’t always known.

Sleep disorders type #5 – Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is characterized by sleep attacks that occur during the day. This means that you will suddenly feel extremely tired and fall asleep without warning. The disorder can also cause sleep paralysis, which may make you physically unable to move right after waking up. Although narcolepsy may occur on its own, it is also associated with certain neurological disorders, such as multiple sclerosis.

Sleep disorders – diagnosing sleep disorders

The doctor will first perform a physical exam and gather information about your symptoms and medical history. They will also order various tests, including the ones listed below:

  • Polysomnography – a sleep study that evaluates oxygen levels, body movements, and brain waves to determine how they disrupt sleep
  • Electroencephalogram – a test that assesses electrical activity in the brain and detects any potential problems associated with this activity.
  • Genetic blood testing – a blood test commonly used to diagnosed narcolepsy and other underlying health conditions that might be causing sleeping problems.

The tests for sleep disorders can be crucial in determining the right course of treatment for sleep disorders.

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