Sleep Disorder -- A Growing Concern in the United States In the United States alone, it is estimated that approximately 60 -- 80 million people have some form of sleep disorder. This number continues to rise. Several of the reasons for the increasing numbers are the aging of the American population, the change in our lifestyle and the obesity epidemic. Of course there are other factors that can lead to a sleep disorder, such as, stress, shift work, illness or genetics. There are more than 100 different types of sleep disorders. They range in severity from minor to life threatening. People of any age, from infants to the aged, can be affected by a sleep disorder at any time of their lives. As sleep disorders increase in the United States, so do the dangers that are associated with them. Tiredness can lead to slower mental alertness and a slower reaction time. This can be a very dangerous combination. Between 20 -- 25% of all serious vehicular accidents involve a tired driver. Many of these drivers suffer from some form of sleep disorder and may not even be aware of it. A large number of accidents that occur at home or at work are also due to people with some type of sleeping problem. Sleep disorder, combined with the cost of the accidents and illnesses it causes, results in the American people and the government spending billions of dollars. Lack of sleep is directly related to many physical ailments and conditions. People that do not get sufficient sleep generally suffer more form headaches, sore joints and stomach problems. Often a sleep disorder is an underlying cause of heart problems, lung conditions and diabetes. Sleep disorders can also affect the mental well being of people stricken with them. Mood changes, anxiety, eating disorders and depression can result. Many people still do not think of a sleeping problem as a medical problem. Because of this, many never tell their physician that they are having a problem with sleep. Even if they see their doctor on a regular basis for an illness or condition, they never mention their difficulty sleeping. As the American public and medical community become more educated and aware of the symptoms, effects and severity of various sleep disorders, more and more cases are being diagnosed. Sufferers are being treated with medication, oxygen, cpap machines and even surgery. There are better screening methods and diagnostic tests which find sleep disorder problems earlier. Overnight sleep centers no longer resemble a hospital room. They are now designed to look more like a hotel room, to make the patient feel more comfortable. In some cases, due to computerization and miniaturization, equipment can be so small that some testing can even be done at home. Sleep is not an option or a luxury. It is a basic element of living and of good health. If you think you, your partner or your child may be suffering from a sleep disorder see your physician. A sleep disorder is a medical problem that can be helped. How to Tell If You Have a Sleep Disorder There are many people that have an undiagnosed sleep disorder. They may feel very sleepy during the day. They may have trouble falling to sleep or staying asleep. Friends or relatives may tell them they look very tired. They may experience mood changes, irritability or become overly emotional. Often they have difficulty paying attention, concentrating, or remembering things that are important. These are all symptoms of sleep deprivation, and possibly of a sleep disorder. A person that has an undiagnosed sleep disorder will usually answer the question, "What is the problem with your sleep," with one of five answers. Those answers will be; "I have trouble falling asleep," " I have trouble staying awake," "I can't get up in the morning," "I seem to do strange things in my sleep" or "I can't sleep because of my partner." The particular answer chosen helps to narrow down the possibility of a specific type of sleep disorder. When someone says "I can't fall asleep" it can mean several things. There could be a problem when first going to bed, after waking up in the middle of the night, or in the early morning hours. Many people have the problem of not being able to fall asleep when they go to bed. This is called sleep latency. Sleep latency can be a very serious symptom of certain sleep disorders, including sleep onset insomnia, delayed sleep phase disorder, shift work, restless leg syndrome or paradoxical insomnia. Many times the problem is not being able to stay asleep, which is sleep fragmentation. Often a person with this complaint can fall to sleep easily when they go to bed, but wake up often throughout the night. Sleep disorders may include sleep maintenance insomnia, shift work. If a person wakes up very early in the morning and cannot get back to sleep, it could be a sign of advanced sleep phase disorder or sleep maintenance insomnia. If the answer to the question is "I can't stay awake" and the person is falling asleep at inappropriate times there may be a sleep disorder such as narcolepsy , obstructive or central sleep apnea, periodic limb movement disorder, restless leg syndrome, shift work or advanced sleep phase disorder. Those that say "I can't get up in the morning" and take an hour or more to fully wake from their sleep may suffer from excessive sleep inertia. They are having difficulty making the transition from sleep to being awake. Sleep disorders that could be responsible for excessive sleep inertia are sleep apnea and delayed sleep phase disorder. A person that answers the question with "I do strange things in my sleep" may find that their sleep is full of surprises. Sleepwalking, Sleep terrors, confusional arousals, REM sleep behavior disorder, nightmares, sleep-related eating disorder and bruxism are all types of sleep disorders known as parasomnias. If a person answers "I can't sleep because of my partner" snoring, sleep apnea, bruxism, restless leg syndrome, or periodic limb movement disorder may be the sleep disorder to blame. How would you answer the question of "What is the problem with your sleep?" Sleeping Disorders: The History When we hear about sleeping disorders we're commonly hearing about those who sleepwalk and can't sleep which is known as insomnia, but often we wonder why sleeping disorders are becoming a prominent issue in today's society. Right now according to the website Wikipedia there are a total of 14 different disorders ranging from eye twitching to restless legs. Some of these problems are treatable and even preventable when monitored by a doctor or specialized health professional. Sleeping disorders can be extremely dangerous when they go undiagnosed. Many people who are suffering from this disorder are facing a lot of life threatening problems because having a sleeping disorder can disrupt you from living your normal everyday life. This can overtake someone if they're spending more time worrying about their condition than getting the correct amount of sleep. The problem with many people who are dealing with a sleeping disorder is that they're not aware of it being a problem until they see it's affecting their job and everyday life. Those who suffer from this can also develop clinical depression because they feel like they're not able to do any of the things they're used to doing if they've been diagnosed with a sleep disorder. Individuals are given a test called the Polysomnogram which is used to determine and diagnose sleep disorders so specialists and doctors can plan a treatment designed for that individual person since not all treatments are the same. According to Wikipedia they list the common treatment options for sleeping disorders are: behavioral/psychotherapeutic, medications (Rozerem, Ambien, Ambien CR and Lunesta are common prescribed sleeping pills given for those diagnosed with a sleeping disorder), and other somatic treatments that are given. Sometimes people who have disorders such as narcolepsy usually have their brain activity measured to see where they are reaching peak points of sleeping so they can be treated since narcoleptics can't really work on jobs that require them to operate machinery or other things because they have to be alert and awake to know what they're doing. Many people who are currently diagnosed with a sleeping disorder are usually treated medicinally for whatever time period the doctor prescribes and monitors the person's condition for. Having a sleeping disorder can make people feel like they're not normal and that they're sick when it's not a sickness and that you can treat the problem through medicine and proper therapy to retrain your body to sleep on a normal scale. The average person sleeps anywhere between 6-8 hours, but the most anyone sleeps is 10 hours. It's noted that people who sleep more than the regular number of hours tend to throw their bodies off due to the fact that naturally we sleep and awake when the day changes. It's ideal to get the right amount of rest because of the fact that your immune system can stress out when you don't get any kind of rest which can also trigger other medical and health issues from the lack of rest. This can be a problem with mostly younger people because you find that lifestyles in this day and age trigger the use of drugs, drinking, smoking, and a poor diet consisting of a lot of unhealthy food choices and a lack of exercise and maintaining physical health. Insomnia -- The Most Prevalent Form of Sleep Disorder Insomnia, a most common sleep disorder, affects about one third of the American population and is classified two different ways. It can be classified by how long it lasts. Transient insomnia lasts for only a few days, short term lasts for a few weeks and chronic lasts for more then three weeks. The other way insomnia is classified is by its source. The main two classifications of this sleep disorder by source are primary and secondary. Transient insomnia is experienced by most people at some time throughout their lives. It can be caused by stress such as worrying about the first day school or an illness in the family. Sometimes this sleep disorder occurs due to a disruption of their circadian cycle, which is a persons natural sleep cycle, caused by jet lag or a shift change at work. Transient insomnia goes away one the stress issue has passed. Short term insomnia is often caused by similar stressors as transient insomnia. If the sufferer of this sleep disorder cannot break the cycle of poor sleep, it often develops into chronic insomnia. Primary insomnia develops without any obvious cause. Sometimes it starts as early as infancy. Often it is the result of high metabolic rates or an overactive nervous system. Secondary insomnia is the direct result of another cause. This sleep disorder can come from illness, medication, drugs or alcohol. Addressing the underlying cause of secondary insomnia often gives the sufferer relief. For example, if arthritis pain keeps you from sleeping, then treating the arthritis is the best way to cope with the sleep disorder. Insomnia is not a single disorder. It is a general symptom and could have many potential causes. In order to qualify as a sleep disorder, insomnia has to meet three specific requirements. First, the person has to experience poor sleep in general, or have a problem falling or staying asleep. Second, if given the proper sleep environment and an adequate opportunity to sleep, the problem still occurs. Third, the result of the poor sleep causes some type of impairment while awake. Examples of an impairment are; fatigue, body aches and pains, inability to concentrate, mood changes, lack of energy, poor concentration, or developing an unnatural amount of worry about sleep. Often insomnia is treated with medication, such as sleeping pills. These can be prescription medication or bought over the counter. However, there are several other methods of treatment for this sleep disorder. Behavioral treatments include meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, visualization, biofeedback, sleep hygiene, cognitive behavioral therapy and reconditioning sleep restriction. These methods are often very successful. Some sufferers of this sleep disorder choose holistic, or alternative, treatment. This method involves the use of herbal supplements which are not usually FDA approved. Others seek acupuncture as a way to relieve their insomnia. Passive body heating, which is the use of hot baths, is another method used. Understanding this sleep disorder is the first step to breaking the cycle of insomnia. Medications Used for the Sleep Disorder of Chronic Insomnia People that suffer from the sleep disorder of chronic insomnia must decide whether or not they are going to take a sleep medication. This decision is usually made with their physician. Many people decide to take a sleeping pill because it offers relief from the symptoms of their sleep disorder and the extreme sleepiness they are always feeling. Taking a pill can improve how they fell and also the quality of their life. However, many people worry about the side effects and health risks that come with taking sleeping pills. Sleeping pills are among the most widely used drugs in the United States, and their use continues to increase. The types of sleep medications that are available to people with insomnia fall into two categories, prescription and over-the-counter medications. Each sleep medication affects the body differently. The effectiveness of the sleeping pill is a major factor when dealing with sufferers of this sleep disorder. How quickly the pill will take effect and how long the effect will last are very important. The effect should match the individual's sleep problem. The fast acting drugs would benefit a person who has difficulty falling asleep while a longer lasting pill would better benefit someone who has difficulty staying asleep. Other important factors concerning medications for people with this sleep disorder include the impact the medication has on sleep quality, the tolerance that a person has for the drug, the possibility of developing a dependence on the drug, and the side effects associated with the drug. Each of these points has to be considered when deciding to take sleep medication for chronic insomnia. Many over-the-counter sleep medications contain some type of antihistamine as a primary active ingredient. Antihistamines are widely used to treat allergies and they are also effective in helping people fall asleep. However, there has been little research done on their long-term effectiveness or safety. Prescription medications for the sleep disorder of chronic insomnia are classified into four general groups: benzodiazepine receptor agonists, antidepressants, melatonin receptor agonists, and barbiturates. Each one of these drug groups has specific benefits in regards to treating insomnia. However, it is very important that the right type of for chronic insomnia medication is prescribed for each individual person with this sleep disorder. Before choosing a sleeping medication, it is very important to determine the source of the insomnia. For example, perhaps the source of the insomnia is the result of another treatable illness, or a side effect of a medication that is taken. The insomnia is then called secondary insomnia. The focus on medication should then be on the primary illness. Often the insomnia will disappear once the underlying cause is treated. The decision of whether or not to take sleep mediation for chronic insomnia has to be a personal decision. There is no right or wrong decision. However, it is important, if the choice is to take a medication for this sleep disorder, to become as educated as possible about the medication prescribed. Insomnia in popular culture Insomnia has been a featured disorder from many factors such as books and movies. Two cult classics one is a book titled Insomnia written by horror novelist Stephen King and the other is the Robert DeNiro film from 1976 Taxi Driver. There have been 28 songs written and recorded about insomnia and among the artists who recorded a song were Vanessa Carlton, Green Day, Radiohead, and Tenacious D. The most popular film based on the Chuck Palahniuk novel that was a hit about 6 years ago was Fight Club with Edward Norton and Brad Pitt and the lead character was manic insomniac. This seems to be the most common form of sleeping disorder to the point that movies and songs were made about this problem. People aren't aware that this is a problematic issue for those who suffer from this. It's not healthy to go without sleep because it can affect your immune system making you prone to catching things like the flu and colds. Not getting any rest can cause severe disorientation because your body wasn't given an opportunity to rest and recuperate. This is what drove the designer coffee movement up like the sprawl of coffee shops from Starbucks, Gloria Jeans, Seattle's Best, and Caribou Coffee since you had a lot of late nighters consisting of mainly people working in hospitals and college students who had to pull late nighters and cram sessions and needed to stay awake so when coffee wasn't working they bought this over the counter pill called Vivarin which is equal to about 2 cups of coffee when you take the prescribed dosage. It's usually not a good idea to take Vivarin because it can interfere with your body's ability to sleep and rest normally. You'll find more college students getting sick a lot because they're forcing their bodies to do things that isn't normal like staying up super late and not getting at least 6 hours of sleep. Rest also provides your body's digestive system to rest which makes up about 70% of your immune system so it's ideal to sleep when necessary and taking short naps also work as a re-energizer to give you a burst of energy that works much better than coffee or caffeine pills. That can become resistant since a lot of coffee drinkers tend to get very tired after a certain point and that's due in part to the fact that you build up a resistance after having a few cups of coffee or cans of Coke so meaning it won't keep you awake it will accelerate the rate of how fast you'll start to feel sleepy. So seeing pop culture idolize such a disorder is unknown unless the person who wrote the book or penned the song has a problem with it and decided to write or sing about it. The reason for it is unknown, but it's rather interesting since a song can tell a story and the same of a book, but it's obviously influenced a slew of songs, a few movies and a series of books where the characters are suffering from some kind of sleeping disorder from mild to severe. Fatal Familial Insomnia This is probably by far one of the rarest forms of sleeping disorders around. This is an inherited disorder that has only been found in 28 families in the world that have the dominant gene for it. The offspring of a parent(s) of developing the disorder is about 50% and there is no cure for this. The age of onset is around the ages between 30 and 60 and the disorder's time frame runs between 7 to 18 months. This disease has 4 stages that it goes through and 1st stage of the disease starts off with the sufferer dealing with increased insomnia leading to severe panic attacks, and various kinds of phobias, this stage lasts about 4 months, 2nd stage sufferer deals with hallucinations and panic attacks become more obvious and lasts about 5 months, 3rd stage Complete and total inability to sleep. And follows with drastic weight loss and lasts about 3 months, 4th stage Dementia sets in and progressively becoming irresponsive and mute over a course of 6 months and this is the final progression of the disease. This sounds a lot like Alzheimer's because if you notice the time frame it's a lot less shorter than the actual time span of someone who deals with Alzheimer's because the sufferer is dealing with it for several years instead of a year where the disease progressively degenerates the mental capacity to such a degree that the sufferer has a hard time with memory. As far as treatment is concerned sleeping pills don't have any effect for people suffering from Fatal Familial Insomnia and not even non-medicinal therapy doesn't work either. Medical science has no idea why it's a fatal disease and how they can create effective treatment options to combat this problem. And more effective genetic testing for diseases that are inherited to find out what can be done medicinally and therapeutically to deal with this sleeping disorder. It's a matter of how much attention the medical world takes note of this and pushes the funding to finding a cure and effective genetic testing of families and tracking diseases through the generations to be able to have some kind of record of the disease passing down through generations or skipping generations which is what some diseases have done in some families for those who have a disposition for certain things. This doesn't get nearly as much attention as all the other sleeping disorders because of it being rare, and only turning up in so many people and births making it not rare enough for it to get the recognition as regular insomnia and to qualify for the treatments. That are currently out there to help those 60 million people who are dealing with some kind of sleeping disorder(s). With the way medical science is going it will be a matter of time before medical science catches up and helps the many people who are looking for a cure of being deprived of a restful night's sleep. The moment a cure is found is one more person who will be helped to have a good night's rest. Sleep Disorder and Teenagers There is a sleep disorder that affects between seven to ten percent of teenagers called Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder, also known as DNS. Most teenagers outgrow this disorder by the time they reach young adulthood. Less then one percent of adults are believed to have DSP. Often people mistake this sleep disorder for insomnia. Left on their own, people with delayed sleep phase disorder would stay up until very late, sometimes until 4 or 5 a.m. They like to get up very late in the morning or early afternoon. Often they are referred to as night owls. Many teenagers like to stay up late and sleep late in the morning. Sometimes this is because they want to socialize at that time of the day. However, it can also be due to the natural delay in the circadian sleep / wake rhythm at their age of development. Teenagers with this sleep disorder often have a very hard time getting up in the morning for school. Even if they go to sleep at a regular time, such as 11 p.m., they toss and turn for hours like someone with insomnia. They difference is, unlike an insomniac, people with delayed sleep phase disorder have no difficulty staying asleep. They do have a very difficult time getting up early in the morning. Teenagers with this sleep disorder are very tired during the day and may even fall asleep in the classroom. The exact cause of this sleep disorder is not known. It is known for certain that it is a circadian rhythm problem. Treatment for this sleep disorder is available for people that need to get onto a more traditional sleep / wake schedule. The types of treatment include, bright light, chronotherapy, melatonin and over- the-counter prescribed sleeping pills. Bright light treatment for delayed sleep phase disorder uses bright light to trick the brain's circadian clock . Exposure to bright light shifts the circadian rhythm if it is administered within a few hours of the body's lowest temperature at night. Using chronotherapy as a treatment for someone with delayed sleep phase disorder requires a block of time one week long. Each day bedtime is delayed by three hours successively. For example, for someone that falls asleep at 2 a.m. but wants to fall asleep at 11. p.m., their bedtime would move to 5 a.m. on the first day. The next day it would move to 8 a.m. and continue this cycle for a week. A teenager suffering with delayed sleep phase disorder would need a week off from school in order to complete this therapy. Once the desired bed time is reached it is very important to keep a consistent wake up time. There are several treatments involving various drugs that are used to treat delayed sleep phase disorder. Melatonin has been successful in changing the sleep cycle of people with this sleep disorder. Prescription medication such as Ramelteon, and other sleeping pills, have been successful in treating teenagers and adults with delayed sleep phase disorder. If your teenager has trouble falling asleep and always wants to stay up late, be aware of the possibility that a sleep disorder may be present. Sleep Disorder Affecting Shift Workers This is a fairly common form of sleeping disorder among medical professionals, police officers, and fireman. This is attributed mostly to people who change their work schedules and sleeping times around frequently. You'll find this often in college students when they're changing semesters and quarters when they get new schedules and can sometimes throw sleep patterns off. Meaning if you were used to getting up early one semester and then you get to sleep late on another it can throw your sleeping patterns off, which can make you feel disoriented and confused which is the main cause for why people get up and retire late, and are late for their jobs and classes because they're not giving themselves enough time to adjust between schedule changes. This is why when a job or school schedules changes it's ideal to give yourself adequate time to make the adjustment so that it doesn't throw you off physically, so you're able to wake up and retire at a reasonable time so you can make it to work and school on time. This is why it's not always wise to constantly change your schedule whenever possible because if you do it too much you're going to confuse yourself on whether you're coming or going. There are some people who's jobs switch their schedules around so much that it can throw someone completely out of synch because the hours start to get rather conflicted when they're coming and going and not making time for other things like having a life or maintaining their priorities outside of their job and school. This also can happen if you're running between more than one job and school because if you're going to a job during the day and then running to another job at night it can throw you off as well. People are advised to give themselves so much time between things in order to make the full transition into the new schedule or time frame so they're not feeling overwhelmed and stressed out since stress can play a huge thing in work related insomnia. The stress comes from having to make so many drastic changes too fast and at one time. This is why people get burned out quickly and dealing with the physical things like indigestion and other things because they're pushing themselves too hard and sometimes forcing themselves to do things that isn't even normal and is considered unhealthy. College students who are like this tending to gain or lose weight because of the stress they're under to switch from one thing to another and not giving themselves a chance to really adjust fully to a schedule or lifestyle change. Even people who work as nurses and doctors occasionally go through this. Because hours are rather strange, and that can throw off the pattern your body has become custom to when to rise and retire and if you interfere with that, it can make you feel weird which can also affect appetite and mental focus and concentration which most people deal with the disorientation of switching things around too fast. Sleep Apnea: A Weighty Issue Sleep apnea is the condition for where there are pauses in breathing during sleep. These are defined by medical terminology when an individual literally stops breathing. There are two types of apneas Central and Obstructive. This is a common problem among the morbidly obese which requires them to wear an oxygen mask so they can breathe since that's due in part of their weight bearing down on their chest crushing their rib cage and lungs. According to medical reports the population at risk are obese middle-aged males since physiology doesn't make women potential sufferers of sleep apnea. The problem is that people who do fall asleep due to sleep apnea will go through brief periods where people think they're not going to wake up. Keep in mind that this is very serious because if it's not properly diagnosed it can be life threatening. People with excessive weight usually morbidly obese constantly have to deal with frequent episodes of paused breathing. Snoring is a common problem with the morbidly obese and constant gasping for air while sleeping is another problem. Obstructive sleep apnea can be dangerous to the heart because it's prolonging and deprivation of oxygen to keep the circulation flowing efficiently. Other symptoms that are deemed non-specific are headaches, irritability, moodiness, difficulty concentrating, Noctoria (getting up in the middle of the night to urinate), increased urination, decreased sexual drive, increased heart rate, anxiety, depression, esophageal reflux (acid reflux disease), and profuse heavy sweating at night. Sleep apnea has also been linked to congestive and congenital heart failure usually found in people who are diagnosed as morbidly obese because of the excessive weight on them. This is from severe and prolonged cases meaning the individual(s) were not being treated and had let the condition get to the point that it's no longer treatable. Individuals born with Down's Syndrome are likely to develop obstructive sleep apnea since 50% of the population that has this genetic condition are likely to be diagnosed because of having an enlarged head, adenoids, tonsils, tongue, and narrowing of the nasopharnyx. Pharyngeal flap surgery has also been noted to cause sleep apnea in patients because of the obstruction in the breathing pattern after surgery which if not monitored can be life threatening. There are different treatments for people with sleep apnea and doctors and ENT (Ear Nose and Throat) specialists take the following into consideration for designing a treatment plan for those who are diagnosed with this condition. The factors that are considered are an individual's medical history, severity of the disorder, and the specific cause for the obstruction. Some treatments also incorporate a lifestyle change, avoiding alcohol and medications that can relax the nervous system. Other lifestyle changes is losing weight and quitting smoking, and incorporate things like elevating themselves while sleeping so that they can breathe using slanted pillows. The weight issue is the biggest lifestyle concern because that causes some people to be confined to beds where they can't move and be active contributing further into a person's weight gain. Usually if someone who's morbidly obese and loses about 50 pounds within a couple months their condition improves, but it's usually up to a steady support system to get someone on a set routine and healthy eating plan that helps to get their weight down so they can qualify for other treatments to help them maintain weight loss which is either through gastric bypass which has to be strongly enforced since this surgery is irreversible and you have to eat differently and undergo a major lifestyle change. The other option is lap band, which is reversible, but again to maintain the weight loss to improve sleep and breathing patterns comes with monitoring what one eats and exercise to help improve breathing patterns. Sleep Apnea -- A Sleep Disorder That Can Be Fatal Sleep Apnea is a serious sleep disorder that can be life threatening and at times fatal. People with sleep apnea often fall asleep normally; however, once asleep their ability to breathe is blocked. Usually this inability to breathe is caused by the muscles in the throat relaxing too much and collapsing into the airway. The body then sends a signal to the brain that breathing has temporarily been blocked. This causes the person to wake up and start breathing again. The cycle of interrupted breathing can occur many times throughout the night. These episodes can occur up to 50 times an hour and last for ten seconds or longer. Often the person that suffers from this sleep disorder is unaware that anything is happening to them. They can not understand why they always feel tired during the daytime. The most common form of this sleep disorder is obstructive sleep apnea, known as OSA. Some sufferers of obstructive sleep apnea also suffer from cental sleep apnea. This sleep disorder is then called mixed sleep apnea. It is believed that obstructive sleep apnea affects between 18 -- 20% of the adults in the United States. If this sleep disorder is left untreated in can become life threatening and in rare cases fatal. It is the underlaying cause of illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, pulmonary hypertension and systemic hypertension. There are several method of treatments for sleep apnea, both surgical and noninvasive. The first line of therapy for someone suffering from moderate to severe sleep apnea is called positive airway pressure. Known as PAP, positive airway pressure is a noninvasive form of treatment. A machine delivers a constant flow of air through a mask that is worn while sleeping. The force of the air flow must be determined by a sleep technician during an overnight sleep study. There are three types of positive air pressure therapy, CPAP, BiPAP and AutoPAP. Dental devices are also used to treat this sleep disorder in mild to moderate cases. Dental devices fall into two general categories: mandibular, or lower jaw, advancing devices or tongue retaining devices. Mandibular devices are used most often. They attach to the upper jaw and pull the lower jaw and base of the tongue forward. This shift in position keeps the airway open. Medications are generally not a successful form of treatment for most people with sleep apnea. However, many of them do take antidepressants and mondafinal. Supplemental oxygen is often used in conjunction with a PAP machine. Oxygen alone can not prevent the collapse of the airway or sleep fragmentation. However, oxygen can prevent the drop in the level of blood oxygen that occurs when the airway collapses. There are also surgical treatments for obstructive sleep apnea that may be an option for some sufferers of this sleep disorder. These include uvulopalatophrayngoplasty, somnoplasty, corrective jaw surgery, palatal implants and tracheostomy. People with this sleep disorder generally find that their quality of life can improve with the proper treatment. Shift Work Sleep Disorder Many people that work during the night suffer from Shift Work Sleep Disorder, also known as SWSD. This disorder affects about one quarter of the approximately 20 million people who do shift work. People affected by shift work sleep disorder are employed in many types of jobs. These include large numbers of workers in industries such as transportation, manufacturing, mining, power, health care, and emergency services including police and firefighters and EMTs. Many of these industries operate around the clock and many various shift schedules exist. Working a shift job forces your body to function outside if it natural circadian rhythm. Their circadian rhythms never become fully adjusted to their hours. No matter how long a person works at night, when they are greeted by the morning sunlight a signal is sent to their brain saying it is time to wake up. A person suffering from this sleep disorder lives in a state of constant circadian disruption. There are several coping strategies for people with shift work sleep disorder. The most important thing to remember when coping with the challenges of shift work is recognizing the importance of sleep and making it a priority. Sleeping during the daytime can be very difficult for some people. Besides going against the body's natural circadian rhythm, there are also the sunlight and the everyday life of the rest of the world, most of which is awake. Many people with this sleep disorder move their bedroom to an isolated place in the house and try to make the room as quiet and dark as possible. It is best to try to avoid as much of the morning sunlight as possible if you plan to go to sleep right after your night shift. Wear sunglasses on the way home and try not to stop for gas or groceries. The more sunlight you are exposed to, the more likely you are going to have a difficult time falling asleep. Another coping technique is to develop a sleep strategy. It is very important to set a specific time to sleep. Many people that suffer from shift work sleep disorder find it is best to follow the same sleep routine even on the days they are off from work. It is essential that family and friends know not to bother you during your sleep time unless it is an emergency. Generally, shift workers are chronically sleep deprived. Scheduling naps at specific times can be a great help in dealing with the sleep disorder that accompanies shift work. People with this sleep disorder should limit the amount of caffeine during the later part of their shift. Some people establish a caffeine cutoff time, after that they drink juice or water. The use of sleeping pills for shift workers can develop into a dependency on them. Taking sleeping pills on a daily basis can lead to other health problems. Not everyone is able to tolerate working during the night. The constant battle with this sleep disorder may cause some people to find a different job. Nocturnal Eating Syndrome -- A Food Related Sleep Disorder Nocturnal eating syndrome is a sleep disorder that is more common in women than men. It is one of two eating disorders that are related to sleep. The other is called sleep-related food disorder. Nocturnal eating syndrome and sleep-related food disorder are parasomnias Nocturnal eating syndrome is a sleep disorder that is characterized by compulsive raids on the refrigerator at night. Usually people with this sleep disorder are very light sleepers. When they awake during the night they have an overly compulsive feeling that they will not be able to fall back to sleep unless they eat something. Once out of bed and at the refrigerator, the compulsion to eat makes them gobble down food. People with nocturnal eating syndrome are fully awake and remember eating the food the next day. This syndrome is a combination of a sleep disorder and an eating disorder. Insomnia is also a factor in nocturnal eating syndrome. Treatment for this disorder is usually received from a mental health professional that specializes in people with eating disorders. Improving sleep hygiene can also help with this disorder. Sleep-related eating disorder also affects more women then men and is a variation of sleepwalking. During an episode of this sleep disorder, a person will eat during partial arousal form a deep sleep. Often they will eat very unhealthy or strange foods that they normally would not eat when awake. During an episode of sleep-related eating disorder, a person might eat frozen pizza, raw cookie dough, peanut butter on fish and even dog food. Often they are very careless and sloppy and may get burns or cuts while preparing the food. It is very difficult to wake a person during an episode and they have no memory of it in the morning. There does not seem to be a correlation to hunger during a sleep-related eating disorder episode, even if the person has eaten just before bed, an episode can still occur. Although the cause of food related sleep disorder is not known, several triggers have been identified. Medications such as lithium, a mood stabilizer, and the benzodiazepine receptor zolpidem are two of those triggers. People with mood and personality disorders or psychological problems such as bulimia are at higher risk of developing one of these food related sleep disorders. People suffering from other sleep disorders including insomnia, sleep apnea, periodic limb movement disorder or narcolepsy are also at higher risk People with sleep-related eating disorder usually have a history of sleepwalking. Because of this, people suffering from this parasomnina are considered having more of a sleep disorder then an eating disorder. Treatment with prescription medication is often very effective. Antidepressants, dopimine agents, anticonvulsants and opiates are often prescribed. Once sleepwalking is stopped so are the trips to the refrigerator. Sleep eaters often are overweight because of the high caloric intake at night. The weight gain can lead to other sleep disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea. Seeking treatment, either from a medical or mental health professional is essential for good health in the treatment of sleep eating disorders.
Nightmares and Night Terrors -- A Frightening Sleep Disorder At some time in their childhood almost all children experience the sleep disorder of having a nightmare. They are common in children and can begin as early as two years old. They are most common in children between three and twelve years old and are considered part of the normal developmental process. However, only about 3 percent, experience night terrors, also called sleep terrors. Both of these sleep disorders can be very frightening to a child. Nightmares are dreams that are so frightening that they wake the person up. Everyone has had nightmares occasionally throughout their life and they usually are not something to worry about. Nightmares occur several hours after going to sleep during the REM stage of sleep when there is general body paralysis and active dreaming. A child can remember the nightmare once they awake and they still remember it in the morning. Sometimes this nightmare sleep disorder can become a problem if the child has nightmares very often and becomes afraid to go to sleep or becomes sleep deprived. When a nightmare occurs it is important that the parent remains calm and reassuring. There are several things that a parent can do to prevent nightmares. Discuss calm and comforting things with your child just before putting then to bed. Reading to them, or telling them a story can also be very comforting. Don't let a child watch violent or scary shows on television, especially just before going to bed. Maintaining a relaxing bedtime routine is also important. Sometimes, nightmares indicate a more severe emotional problem within your child. Night terrors usually occur during the first few hours of sleep, during deep non-REM sleep. They often occur at the same time each night. Night terrors are characterized by screaming, crying or moaning. It is not unusual for a child experiencing a night terror to sit straight up in bed and scream. Their heart rate is increased and they experience rapid breathing. An episode of this sleep disorder can last from 10 minutes to over an hour. Although the child's eyes are open, they are actually still asleep and when they wake up in the morning there is no memory of what happened during the night. Although night terrors can be frightening, they are not dangerous. They usually are not a sign of any type of mental distress. A parent should not try to wake the child, or comfort them, during a night terror. The best thing for a parent to do when their child is experiencing a night terror is to make sure they are safe. Generally, most children outgrow this sleep disorder after a few months or years. Several of the factors that can contribute to night terrors include being overly tired, staying up extremely late, eating a heavy meal just before going to bed, and taking certain medications. Although nightmares and night terrors can seem like a very scary type of sleep disorder to both the parents and the children involved, they are generally harmless. Narcolepsy: The sleeping disease There are over 3 million cases of narcolepsy and is estimated by medical reports that 200,000 Americans, but just under 50,000 are actually officially diagnosed by a doctor. It has been said that it's widespread like the neurological disease Parkinson's disorder. This condition is usually recognized in both men and women at any age, yet the symptoms are usually first noticed in teenagers and younger age adults usually in their 20s and early 30s. It's been noted that there is a 15-year between the onset and actual diagnosis of the problem, which has contributed to the debilitating features of this particular disorder. Those who deal with narcolepsy have a plethora of cognitive, educational, occupational, and psychological issues that can arise from this problem. The presence of narcolepsy is 1 in 2000 people and is also found in people with diagnosed learning disabilities and currently the treatment options are very limited. The studies that were conducted for this concluded that this problem is constantly under diagnosed in the general population in society. Some narcoleptics don't show any signs visibly and the severity of the condition varies from person to person. This is where medical science has its blunders because of the fact that this condition is so under diagnosed that it's hard to really get a grasp of the severity of this problem, because it varies in levels from noticeable to barely obvious. Polysonogram and Multiple Sleep Latency exams are the two tests that are done to give a formal and correct diagnostic approach to the condition and usually this is where the diagnosis presents the level of severity so that it's properly noted by a specialist to ensure a proper treatment plan for that person. Tests are conducted in two-hour increments to allow the person to sleep and usually the polysonogram test does a continuous test of brain activity when it's in REM sleep mode when sleep happens at night. Usually most narcoleptics fall asleep in nighttime sleep mode fairly quickly. There are several methods of treatments for people with narcolepsy and usually it consists of anti-depressants and planned short-timed naps have also been helpful to lower the dependence on medicinal treatments and allowing the body to do what it should be doing naturally. Retraining the body to sleep at a reasonable time has helped those with narcolepsy to recognize sleeping at night and taking short naps during the day so that their body stays alert because a lot of narcoleptics have been putting themselves and others at risk when they fall asleep during their normal work day or even driving or operating machinery. With the new wave of holistic medicine being readily available to help people with conditions from skin to psychological issues. Narcoleptics can also work with a treatment plan that includes a change in diet and incorporating exercise and taking nutritional supplements and formulas to give someone added nutrition if they're not getting enough from the food they eat. Narcolepsy is manageable if you follow the doctor's instructions and taking medications when you're supposed to and following therapy plans that are designed for that person to follow to the last detail. Narcolepsy -- A Rare Sleep Disorder Narcolepsy, a relatively rare sleep disorder, causes people to fall asleep when they do not want to. This is caused by a neurological disorder. The brain sends signals to the body that are sleep inducing; however, they are sent at inappropriate and unpredictable times. Often it happens when a person is involved in a quiet activity, such as watching a movie or during a meeting. Sometimes a person with this sleep disorder falls asleep while driving, which is obviously extremely dangerous. Others fall asleep while they are eating or talking. The overwhelming need to sleep can come at any hour of the day during any activity. People suffering with narcolepsy often do not realize how sleepy they are, nor how often they fall asleep. It is often a family member, friend or coworker that convinces them that they need to seek medical help for their sleep disorder. Narcolepsy has five main symptoms. These are excessive daytime sleepiness, insomnia and fragmented sleep, sleep paralysis, cataplexy and hypnagogic hallucinations. Some people with this sleep disorder experience only one symptom but others can experience all five. Excessive daytime sleepiness is generally the first symptom to appear. Everyone with narcolepsy has this symptom. The feeling of needing to sleep is so strong that sufferers are unable to fend it off, regardless of how hard they try. These sleep attacks, as they are usually called, can happen several times and last for five to ten minutes. Insomnia and fragmented sleep are a very common symptom of this sleep disorder. People with narcolepsey often have a very difficult time falling asleep at night, even though they fall asleep easily throughout the day. When they do fall asleep at night they wake up often and do not follow a typical REM / non REM sleep pattern. Sleep paralysis occurs in about half of the people that suffer from this sleep disorder. For several minutes before falling to sleep or waking up, the person with this symptom cannot talk or move. The loss of muscle function while awake is cataplexy. These episodes are usually very short in length. Over half of the people with narcolepsy experience this symptom of this sleep disorder. They are caused by a part of REM not functioning correctly. Often, episodes are brought on by anger, laughter or any other strong emotion. Sometimes knees buckle, necks and jaws become weak or the person may fall to the ground. Even though the person looks like they are asleep and cannot talk, they are fully awake and aware of what is happening. A hypnagogic hallucination is experiencing very vivid and often frightening sounds, images or physical sensations. These occur from dreams just before the person is falling asleep or waking up. It is very difficult for a person with this sleep disorder to distinguish between the dream and reality. These hallucinations often have very dangerous themes and are extremely frightening. Often they are accompanied by sleep paralysis. There are also several lesser symptoms of narcolepsy. These include blurred vision, migraine headaches, memory or concentration problems and automatic behavior. An apostate of automatic behavior can last for several minutes. During that time a person with this sleep disorder will perform a routine task. The task is often done incorrectly, such as placing a turkey in the dishwasher or writing past the end of a page. Narcolepsy can be diagnosed and treated with various drugs. If left untreated this sleep disorder can ruin a person's life. Muscle pain and sleeplessness Fibromyalgia is a painful condition that affects the muscles and joints and is seen in only 3-6% of the general population in the world. It's generally seen more in females than males with a ratio percentage of 9.1 according to the College of Rhumatology and is commonly diagnosed in females between the ages of 20-50 though it's been noted that the onset happens in childhood. This is not a life-threatening disease though the degree of pain in the condition can vary day to day with periods of flare ups and remission. The disease is being argued and viewed as non-progressive, but that's a point that remains in limbo. This is a problematic issue that can be a reason to keep someone up at night because the pain can be unbearable with the tingling and achiness in the muscles. This drives many who deal with this to endless and chronic deprivation of sleep. Those who suffer fibromyalgia also note issues with memory and other neurological issues, but the most frequent is the issues with sleeping that individuals go through when they deal with painful, annoying flare-ups. Other issues that surround this problem, which can make sleeping very difficult, are irritable bowel syndrome with constipation, which affects mostly women and few men. Skin disorders like dermatological disorders, headaches, myofacial twitching, and symptomatic hypoglycemia. Stress, excessive physical exertion, lack of sleep, changes in temperature and baromic pressure. This condition can worsen when individuals don't sleep or getting the proper rest and not overdoing on things in their daily lives. The American Medical Association had officially recognized fibromyalgia as a medical condition back in 1987 when the disorder was around since the 1800s. It's been said that flare ups are not identical to the ones that are found in people with rheumatoid arthritis, but ibuprofen like Advil, Acenomenofen (Tylenol), and Neproxine (Aleve) which are anti-inflammatory and can bring some comfort to those with fibromyalgia flare ups. Massage has also been ideal in helping those who deal with fibromyalgia to find comfort when they have flare ups. Massage helps to transfer fluids from the muscles and joints and increases circulation to the affected areas to bring some temporary relief for inflammation and flare ups. Which can actually help improve sleep for someone in pain, but it's best to get a massage when you're not on any medication due to the high risk of side effects that can be triggered from massaging tissue and muscles. Fibromyalgia is a manageable problem if you follow your doctor's instructions and take your medication as directed and getting the right amount of sleep and getting plenty of exercise and eating a nutritious diet consisting of fresh fruits and vegetables and drinking plenty of water and limiting things in the diet that can also aggravate flare ups. When you take care of yourself properly you can actually improve the quality of sleep as well as decreasing the debilitating pain. That can keep someone up all night long instead of allowing them to sleep and getting in a decent amount of time for rest and feeling stress free and more relaxed, so that they can face the day with no painful flare ups and discomfort that can be annoying. Jet Lag Syndrome This is the second most popular sleep disorder and usually affects international flights and if it's domestic if they're going between time zones. This is what you call knocking your body clock out of synch because when you're traveling across different time zones especially at the international level because that can throw you off an entire day if you're coming from the west going east from New York to London or Los Angeles to Tokyo or Sydney which can throw you off since you cross the international date line which is one day ahead and behind. It seems as if women are more affected than men and according to medical reports its because the natural hormone estrogen and it's triggered when the body when accustomed to normal daytime and nighttime rhythms therefore you're upsetting the body's natural state of corresponding with a specific time of day and it can even interrupt eating patterns as well. It can take up to several days to even a full week to regain some normalcy on the time and place once you've had time to sleep yourself into adjustment mode. The symptoms of jet lag vary by the individual person and symptoms can include or be a combination of dehydration which can trigger minor disorientation, and loss of appetite, headaches and sinus irritations, fatigue, grogginess, nausea and/or vomiting from an upset stomach, irritability, and mild depression. Jet lag is not linked to the length of a flight, but the transmerdian distance traveled. For example if you flew from New York and Los Angeles which is approximately 5 hours you will feel some jet lag crossing the Central and Mountain time zones. Jet lag can be extremely difficult in places like Alaska and Russia because of the fact that Alaska only sees a short amount of daylight and Russia has 11 different time zones and can really throw someone off if they were flying from Copenhagen to Tokyo. Usually people that are prone to this are often given sedatives by their doctors to help them sleep through the flight and to wake up without the effects of jet lag when they land in their destination. Ways to recover quicker from jet lag is proper nutrition, exercise, and sleep because you'll be surprised to know that people who don't sleep or get enough rest and relaxation will deal with it later when they land and the disorientation sets in. Sunlight according to doctors say can help reset your body's clock back in synch. It's difficult to pinpoint the severity of jet lag because it affects people differently and usually people who travel on international flights are less likely to deal with jet lag because they're used to the constant change. And have manage to adapt to those changes since some travel monthly for business and usually it's business travelers who deal with jet lag more than those who go for vacations. Business travelers fly at odd times which can throw someone off because they're flying out super early or catching the red eye somewhere to arrive the next day. Illnesses That Can Cause a Sleep Disorder Many times a sleep disorder can be caused from an illness or from the medications used to treat an illness. Some of the common health conditions that can cause a sleeping problem are cardiovascular disease, endocrine disorders, neurological disorders, respiratory disease, mental illness, gastroesophageal reflux disease, kidney disease, and arthritis. Cardiovascular disease includes congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease. These are the two most common heart problems that affect sleep and can cause a sleep disorder. Congestive heart failure occurs when the heart can no longer pump enough blood fo the body's needs. Blood backs up in the veins of the heart which lead to the kidneys and edema eventually damages the lungs and other organs. People suffering from congestive heart failure have a very high risk of developing the sleep disorder of obstructive sleep apnea. Coronary heart disease is the build up of fatty deposits in the arteries that supply blood to the heart, called atherosclerosis. This condition also can lead to obstructive sleep apnea. Sleep disorders can occur from endocrine disorders such as diabetes and thyroid disease. Diabetes is a disease that affects the way the body processes and uses carbohydrates, fats and proteins. People that have uncontrolled diabetes often develop the sleep disorder of restless leg syndrome. Thyroid hormones regulate the body's energy levels. Hyperthyroidism can make it difficult to fall asleep, and cause night sweats the person to wake. Neurological disorders include Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy, and strokes. Parkinson's disease is a central nervous system disorder. This disease causes problems with body motion, including tremors, unstable posture, slowed body movements, muscle stiffness, and difficulty walking. Sleep disorders that occur with this disease include REM sleep behavior disorder and sleep onset insomnia. Alzheimer's disease impairs the brain's intellectual functions and is the most common cause of dementia. This disease causes sleep fragmentation. Epilepsy causes recurrent, sudden, brief changes in the normal electrical activity of the brain. People with this condition are twice as likely to suffer from the sleep disorder insomnia. People that suffer a stroke usually also have obstructive sleep apnea. People that have respiratory diseases, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, usually also have a sleep disorder. Asthma is a chronic lung condition that makes breathing difficult when air passages become inflamed and narrow. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, known as COPD, refers to a group of disorders that damage the lungs and make breathing difficult. Many people with these conditions suffer from insomnia and sleep fragmentation. Mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and seasonal affective disorder can also lead to a sleep disorder. People with these mental health disorders often suffer from sleep fragmentation and insomnia. Gastroesophageal reflux disease, known as GERD, causes the stomach's juices to flow backwards into the esophagus. This causes the sleep disorder of sleep fragmentation. Kidney disease causes the kidneys to lose their ability to filter the proper amount of waste products from the blood and regulate the body's balance of salt and water. This can cause the sleep disorders of restless leg syndrome and insomnia to develop. People with arthritis often find it difficult to fall asleep because of the pain. This often results in insomnia. If an illness causes a sleep disorder to develop, the sleep disorder is secondary to the illness. Successful treatment of the primary underlying cause will usually diminish the effects of the sleep disorder. Hypersomnia (oversleeping) Most people don't realize they oversleep when they have a condition called hypersomnia and that's due in part to recurring episodes of excessive daytime sleeping and prolonged nighttime sleep. This is different from the average person taking that midday nap when they do it at sometimes the most inappropriate times like at work, during meals, or even in conversation with people. Hypersomniacs are also diagnosed with narcolepsy, which can be quite dangerous because some individuals are behind the wheel of cars or even cooking in their home and aren't aware that they fell asleep. Some hypersomniacs and narcoleptics can fall asleep and then wake up and resume where they left off in conversations with people. Usually daytime naps usually provide no relief or symptoms to the problem(s) and will result in the individual(s) having increased difficulty in waking from a long extended period of sleeping, disorientation, anxiety, decreased energy, increased fatigue, restlessness, slow thinking, slow speech, loss of appetite, hallucinations, and problems with memory functions. Some individuals also experience losing the ability to function in normal family, social, occupational, and other settings familiar to that person. Hypersomnia can be triggered by sleep apnea or narcolepsy, where it can lead to dysfunction of the autonomic nerve system, which can be brought on, by acute alcohol and/or drug abuse. In some cases rare or not it can also be triggered from physical problems such as tumors, head trauma or injuries to the nervous system. Specific medications or withdrawal of medications and/or drugs may contribute to someone having hypersomnia. Medical conditions such as multiple sclerosis, depression, encephalitis, epilepsy, and obesity can contribute to hypersomnia as well. It's also been noted that those who have hypersomnia are also genetically dispositioned to this problem whereas in others there's no known or documented cause. Hypersomnia typically affects adolescents and young adults in their 20s and 30s. Although the most common causes of this disorder differs in the age brackets. Information can be located on the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Strokes website if you're seeking a more thorough clinical explanation to this problem. This isn't a substitute for medical advice from a licensed physician so it's ideal to educate yourself, but leave the diagnosing and treatment to a doctor so that you condition can be monitored closely. People who are not seeing a doctor when they identify problems that are not normal for them to experience are misdiagnosing too many issues with sleep. Persons who are severely obese can also have a difficult time losing the weight because of the fact that lack of sleep can increase the body's metabolic rate, which can trigger excessive hunger in those who are trying to lose weight. This is why so many people who are obese are eating more than they should because a lot of them sleep so much that they wake up wanting to eat when they should be sleeping like normal people do and not up at all hours of the night wanting to eat. This is why it's harder for people who are obese to lose weight when they sleep too much and not training their body to rest instead of wanting to eat food. Children With the Sleep Disorder of Sleepwalking The sleep disorder of sleepwalking, also known as somnambulism, affects approximately 14% of school-age children between five and twelve years old at least once. Approximately one quarter of the children with this sleep disorder have more frequent episodes. Sleepwalking is more common in boys then it is in girls. Most children that sleepwalk outgrow the symptoms of this sleep disorder by adolescence as their nervous systems develop. In children this sleep disorder is thought to be the result of the immaturity of the brain's sleep / wake cycle. Normally the entire brain wakes up at the same time. However, in the case of a sleepwalker, the entire brain does not wake up together. The portion that is responsible for mobility wakes up while the portion responsible for cognition and awareness stays asleep. The child is actually in a deep state of sleep. With this sleep disorder the brain remains partially asleep but the body is able to move. It is common for the sleepwalker to get out of bed and walk around. Sometimes they get dressed or go outside. Even though the sleepwalker's eyes are open and they see what they are doing, their expression remains blank. They do not respond to conversation or their name being called. A sleepwalker's movements usually appear clumsy. It is not uncommon for them to trip over furniture or knock over things as they move around. A sleepwalking episode usually happens one to two hours after the child goes to sleep. Most of these episodes last for fifteen minutes or less, but some can last for an hour or more. This sleep disorder in children is usually outgrown and treatment is not generally necessary. In most cases, a parent gently guiding the child back to bed is all that is needed. There is not any need to wake the child. However, there is about 1% of the population that sleepwalk as adults. Adults that have this sleep disorder did not necessarily have it as a child. In adults a sleepwalking episode can be triggered by stress, anxiety, sleep fragmentation, sleep deprivation, or certain medical conditions such as epilepsy. Treatment for adults with this sleep disorder is often dependent upon the amount of danger they are in during an episode. For example, a sleepwalker who opens doors and goes outside onto a busy city street is in danger. A sleepwalker that gets up and goes into the living room and sits down on a chair most likely is not in danger. Treatments can include behavioral therapies, self hypnosis, or prescription medication. A sleepwalker, whether adult or child, needs to have a safe area so that they do not get hurt during an episode. Precautions can be taken to eliminate some dangers. Parents should make sure the child's bedroom does not have any sharp or breakable objects. Doors should be locked at night to keep the sleepwalker from going outside. Sometimes it is necessary to put bells on doors to alert the sleeping parent that their child is sleepwalking. Large glass windows and doors should be covered with heavy drapery to lessen the chance of having the sleepwalker walk through it while it is closed. A child with the sleep disorder of somnambulism needs to be protected and kept safe during an episode. It is the environment they are in that is the danger more then the sleep disorder itself. A Sleep Disorder That Affects the Legs -- Restless Sleep Syndrome Restless leg syndrome, known as RLS, is a sleep disorder that afflicts more than 15 percent of adults. It affects more women than men and the incidence of restless leg syndrome increases with age. Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, arthritis and varicose veins, also increase the risk of developing restless leg syndrome. This sleep disorder is characterized by an uncontrollable urge to move the lower legs, knees and occasionally the arms. Sometimes painful sensations accompany the urge to move. People that suffer from this sleep disorder describe the feelings and sensations in different ways. Many describe a tingling, itching or pulling sensation. Still others say it feels prickly or burns. Some feel as if they have worms crawling under their skin. The sensations which are typical of this sleep disorder can occur anytime during the day or night. Restless leg syndrome occurring at night has a devastating effect on sleep. The symptoms can cause the sufferer to get in and out of bed repeatedly which can delay or disrupt sleep. Since sleep in repeatedly interrupted, extreme daytime sleepiness is common. The combination of always feeling tired and the symptoms themselves can cause a person with restless leg syndrome to alter their lifestyle. Long trips, movies, concerts and eating in restaurants are some of the activities they usually avoid. Attending a long meeting at work can become very painful and uncomfortable. People that have this sleep disorder often suffer from depression. Researchers believe that restless leg syndrome may be caused by malfunctions of the pathways in the brain that controls movement reflexes and sensations. Often this sleep disorder has a genetic base. Restless leg syndrome cannot be diagnosed by one single test. Often standard neurological examinations show no signs of an abnormality. In many cases, a doctor makes the diagnosis of restless leg syndrome based on the description of the symptoms. They also take into account family history, and the results of a routine medical examination and blood tests. Many times the treatment for restless leg syndrome is aimed at controlling the debilitating sensations that accompany this sleep disorder. Often iron supplements are prescribed because severe anemia has been linked to this disorder. Relaxation techniques, diet changes and the elimination of caffeine and alcohol help some sufferers of restless leg syndrome. In most cases, this sleep disorder is treated with drugs. These drugs could include dopamine agents, benzodiazepines, opioids or anticonvulsants. Medications do not cure restless leg syndrome, but they manage the symptoms. People that suffer from this sleep disorder usually have to stay on their medications for the rest of their lives. Another sleep disorder similar to restless leg syndrome is periodic limb movement disorder known as PLMD. There are two main differences between restless leg syndrome and periodic limb movement disorder. Restless leg syndrome occurs when the sufferer is awake or asleep; periodic limb movement disorder only occurs when the sufferer is asleep. Restless leg syndrome movements are voluntary responses to very unpleasant sensations; the movements of periodic limb movement disorder are involuntary and are not consciously controlled. Both of these sleep disorders can be effectively controlled with medical treatment. What to Expect at a Sleep Disorder Overnight Sleep Center I f you think you may have a sleep disorder, your primary doctor or a doctor that specializes in sleep disorders may send you to a sleep center for diagnosis. There are a large number of sleep centers located across the United States and their numbers are increasing. Sleep centers in the United States must be accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. When a person goes to a sleep center, it is usually for an overnight stay. Costs involved for most sleep study tests range from one to three thousand dollars and many need to be repeated twice. The first visit to diagnose the sleep disorder and the second to get accurate settings for any PAP machines that may be needed. Health insurance generally pays all or most of the cost of the tests needed to diagnose a sleep disorder. Once an appointment has been made, many sleep centers send a sleep diary to the patient. The information from the sleep diary is used by the doctors to understand general sleeping patterns. It is also recommended that no caffeine or alcohol be consumed after 12:00 p.m. on the day of the scheduled test. Generally the patient packs an overnight bag just as if they were going to stay at a hotel overnight. During the sleep study you wear your own nightclothes and you can use a favorite pillow from home. You can bring a book or magazine if you like to read before falling to sleep. Most sleep centers resemble a hotel room and have a television to watch if that is what the patient usually does before going to sleep at home. Once you are relaxed the sleep center technician starts preparation for the equipment needed to record your patterns of sleep. Diagnosis from a sleep center study is made using polysomnography which records a continual record of your sleep. In order to take a specific reading slightly more than two dozen small thin electrodes are pasted to specific parts of your body. They are placed under your chin, on your scalp, near your eyes and nose, on your finger, chest and legs, and also over the rib muscles and on the abdomen. These electrodes then record various types of readings during the night. Often an audio and video tape are also made to monitor sleep noises and movement. Once all the equipment is in place the sleep technician leaves you alone to fall asleep. Even with all the equipment it is not uncomfortable. It is easy to move or turn onto your side. Each bedroom in a sleep center also has an automatic intercom so it is easy to call the technician if needed for such things as a bathroom break. When the sleep study is completed, the technician may wake you. Most studies that are used to diagnose a sleep disorder take seven to eight hours. The reading are collected on a computer file called a polysonagram and are monitored and analyzed by the sleep technician during the night. The results are then sent for further readings to determine if there is a sleep disorder. Although a sleep study may not sound comfortable, it is very important to determine and treat any sleep disorder. An Alternative Approach for Overcoming a Sleep Disorder Having a sleep disorder can be very disruptive to everyday life. Sleep deprived people are usually excessively tired and sleepy. They tend to become irritable and very emotional. At times they become a danger, not only to themselves, but also to those around them. Some people use alternative, natural ways to lessen the effects of their sleep disorder. Many people focus on diet and nutrition, while others use herbs and supplements. Still others believe in the positive effect of exercise, relaxation and sensory techniques, meditation or behavioral and cognitive strategies. Often people use a combination of these approaches to help alleviate the symptoms of their sleep disorder. A healthy diet is essential for optimal energy and a restful sleep. Avoiding certain foods is as important as including others in your daily diet. Eating a wide variety of foods and drinking plenty of water will keep your body well- balanced and provide a more stable energy level. Avoiding food that is grown, treated or processed with chemicals, and limiting the amount of sugar and caffeine will also help your overall physical condition. Many foods promote a restful sleep and are helpful in relieving some of the symptoms of certain sleep disorders. Eating the proper snack before bedtime can increase natural serotonin levels. Serotonin acts as a natural sedative and is made in the body from the amino acid tryptophan. Foods that a re rich in tryptophan include chicken, turkey, cheese, cottage cheese, fish, milk, nuts, avocados and bananas. Many people use herbs and natural supplements as an alternative approach to treating their sleep disorder. There are many nutritional supplements and herbal products on the market. It is important to know how a specific product acts on the body as well as on the specific sleep disorder.. For example many people with restless leg syndrome have an iron or folic acid deficiency. Taking an iron supplement may alleviate some of the symptoms of RLS. Many herbs are well known for promoting a natural sleep. A clamming tea of chamomile or lemon balm can be very relaxing to many people that suffer from a sleep disorder. Exercise and relaxation techniques, whether used alone or together, can reduce stress and muscle tension. Many people that use these techniques to lessen the symptoms of a sleep disorder do these before going to bed. They not only ease physical tension but they calm the mind and prepare the body to sleep. These techniques include mindful exercise, progressive muscle relaxation, breathing exercises and yoga. Meditation and visualization are also used by some sufferers of sleep disorders to calm the body before sleep. Two common forms of mediation are meditation on the breath and mantra meditation. Both of these types can have a positive effect on relieving stress and calming the body. Many people focus their energy on a healing visualization as a method of alternative therapy for their sleep disorder. Sensory techniques that people use to lessen the symptoms of their sleep disorder are hydrotherapy, and aroma therapy. The two main techniques included in hydrotherapy, which means water therapy, are relaxing in an Epsom salt bath and a lymph stimulating footbath. Aroma therapy includes the use of therapeutic essential oils in baths, massage oils, room sprays, and simple inhalants. Alternative behavioral and cognitive strategies used to combat the symptoms of a sleep disorder include improving a person's sleep hygiene, stimulus control therapy and journal writing. Alternative practices and techniques can help many types of sleep disorders. Often they are used in conjunction with traditional medication and practices.
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