Sleeping Disorders - Symptoms, Causes, Effects

Sleep is not simply the absence of wakefulness. Rather, it is a complex state of active and coordinated brain processes. As demonstrated by electroencephalography, sleep progresses in four deepening stages, plus rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep. The four stages are collectively known as non-REM sleep. Stage 1 is a transitional "drowsy" phase that precedes deeper, more restorative stages. Relative to non-REM sleep, REM sleep is associated with brain activity that resembles wakefulness and is linked to most recallable dreams.

The total amount and composition of sleep change throughout life. With aging, the total amount of sleep shortens: infants and children normally sleep 16 to 20 hours a day, adults sleep seven to eight hours a day and, after age 60, adults sleep approximately 6.5 hours a day.9 Delta sleep (stages 3 and 4 sleep), the deepest and most refreshing kind of sleep, diminishes markedly with age. In contrast, early stage 1 sleep, the lightest sleep, increases with age. The threshold for arousal is lowest during stage 1 sleep and highest decline in REM sleep throughout a person's lifetime during delta sleep, a feature that helps explain why sleep in old age becomes more fragmented, with more brief awakenings. There is little decline in REM sleep throughout a person's lifetime.

There are three main categories of sleep disorders listed below:

  • Insomnia (not enough sleep)
  • Sleep Apnea (disturbed sleep)
  • Narcolepsy (too much sleep)

There are literally 75 or more different sleep disorders that will fall within these three different categories. Some good news is that the majority of sleep disorders can be treated once they are proper diagnosed. Sleep is controlled by chemical changes within the blood system. Often medication or a simple diet change will be sufficient to correct any sleeping disorders. Balancing the correct chemicals in your blood will give you the peace and rest you have been looking for. Diagnosing the problem should be done by a trained doctor that can run the sleep disorder tests and correctly diagnose you sleep disorder. Afterwards, the doctor will be able to recommend the correct course of action.

Medical condition

Some of the commonly occurring conditions that can cause insomnia are listed below.

  • Menopause
  • Gastro esophageal reflux disease
  • Benign prostatic hyperplasia
  • Incontinence
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Peptic ulcer disease
  • Allergic rhinitis (nasal obstruction)
  • Seizure disorder
  • Medical conditions that cause pain, such as arthritis, bursitis, fibromyalgia and reflex sympathetic
  • Dystrophy

A major cause of sleep disturbance in middle-aged women is the menopause-related "hot flush”. Recent studies indicate that nearly every hot flush promotes an arousal from sleep insomnia

Psychiatric Conditions

A psychiatric disorder, such as depression, is frequently a cause of chronic insomnia, especially in the elderly. The effect of a chronic psychiatric illness often leads a patient to self-medicate, producing even more severe insomnia. Other psychiatric conditions that can cause insomnia include anxiety disorder, panic disorder, mania and acute psychosis.

Conditioned insomnia occurs when the act of going to bed triggers anxiety and the inability to go to sleep. In other words, the patient has been inadvertently trained to stay awake at bedtime. A clue to this disorder may be the patient's ability to readily fall asleep at times when he or she is not focusing on obtaining slumber (i.e., unscheduled naps)

Sleep-Related Breathing Disorders

Common symptoms of sleep apnea are loud snoring, choking or gasping episodes during sleep, and excessive daytime sleepiness that the patient may attribute to poor sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea occurs most often in obese patients and may be associated with hypothyroidism.13 It is important to consider the possibility of sleep apnea at an early stage in a patient who reports insomnia or other sleep difficulties. If the suspicion of sleep apnea is high, the patient should be referred for a sleep study. The use of medications that are respiratory suppressants (e.g., all sedative-hypnotic medications) should be avoided if a sleep-related breathing disorder is suspected.

Sleep-Related Movement Disorders

Periodic leg movements during sleep are common in persons over 65 years of age. Although these limb movements are often associated with brief arousals, many patients have no sleep symptoms. When these limb movements are associated with insomnia or daytime sleepiness, periodic limb movement disorder may be diagnosed. In contrast to patients with periodic leg movement disorder, patients with restless legs syndrome are quick to describe an uncomfortable sensation of the limbs that comes on at rest and is relieved by movement such as walking. This restlessness causes a delay in sleep onset. Periodic leg movement disorder commonly coexists with restless legs syndrome. Renal failure with uremia or iron or foliate deficiency sometimes underlies restless legs syndrome.


Anyone can suffer from insomnia, although sleeping problems are more common among women (especially menopausal), the ill, the elderly, smokers, and alcoholics. Sleep problems are, however, surprisingly common among young people. While it is not an illness and is in no way life-threatening, insomnia can be very distressing, frustrating, exhausting, and depressing and at worst it can make you feel like you're going crazy.

It is not surprising that there are certain conditions that are not treated immediately because most people who experience them are ashamed of admitting them or are not the least aware that they have them. Sometimes it won't be immediately obvious what the causes are in your own case. For example sleeping disorder is so common that a lot of people are not aware that such conditions exist. They just thought that simple matters that occur during their sleep are just the effects of other factors such as physical stress, fatigue, etc.

The research shows that more or less 33% of the entire population experience sleeping disorders. Among them the most common sleeping disorders are Insomnia and sleep apnea respectively. The lack of information can misguide the individual about the condition and symptom of the sleeping disorders although these are already exists in the patient. So the knowledge of the symptoms and the necessary measures and actions are very important for an individual.

Many people who feel they are suffering from insomnia may actually have a lower physical need for sleep than they believe they do. A normal part of the aging process is to sleep lighter and for shorter periods of time, and some elderly people toss and turn in bed late at night or early in the morning when their body has no physical need for more rest, because they believe that they 'need' a certain amount of sleep to be rested.

Insomnia is a common side-effect of some medications, and it can also be caused by

  • Stress
  • Emotional upheaval
  • Physical or mental illness
  • Dietary allergy
  • Poor sleep hygiene

Insomnia is a major symptom of mania in people with bipolar disorder and it can also be a sign of hyper-thyroidism, depression, or other ailments with stimulating effects.
Additionally, a rare genetic condition can cause a prion-based, permanent and eventually fatal form of insomnia called Fatal Familial Insomnia.

Other serious sleeping orders are

Sleep Apnea

This is when a sleeping person's breathing is interrupted, thus interrupting the normal sleep cycle. Sleep apnea is a life-threatening sleeping disorder that manifests any interruptions or pauses in between breaths. It is so alarming because a person who is sleeping and suffering from sleep apnea usually stops breathing for several seconds usually up to a minute long and resumes breathing thereafter.

With the obstructive form of the condition, some part of the sleeper's respiratory tract loses muscle tone and partially collapses. People with obstructive sleep apnea often do not remember any of this, but they complain of excessive sleepiness during the day. Central sleep apnea is where the normal central nervous system stimulus to breathe is interrupted, and the individual must actually wake up to resume breathing. This form of apnea is often related to a cerebral vascular condition, congestive heart failure, and premature aging.

Jet Leg

This is seen in people who travel through multiple time zones on a regular basis, as the time relative to the rising and falling of the sun no longer coincides with the body's internal concept of it, and is also seen in people who consistently work night shifts.


Patients with narcolepsy experience excessive daytime sleepiness and may fall asleep at inappropriate times. Other symptoms include: cataplexy (a sudden loss of muscle control associated with strong emotions), disturbed nocturnal sleep, sleep paralysis, and hypnologic hallucinations (in the sleep/wake transition) Researchers have demonstrated a link between narcolepsy and certain genes. However, genetic testing is not often required as clinical findings from an overnight sleep study and a multiple Sleep Latency Test (MSLT) generally provide adequate information for diagnosis.

While there is no cure for narcolepsy, prescription stimulants and scheduled daytime naps improve daytime wakefulness, while a REM suppressant can abolish cataplexy
Although the prevalence of narcolepsy is considered to be low, it is twice that of multiple sclerosis. While the symptoms of narcolepsy tend to appear during adolescence, the disorder is most commonly diagnosed during the patient's 30s or 40s.

There are unknown causes of narcolepsy. However, it is usually characterized by excessive sleeping during daytime, in spite of the fact that the person had enough sleep during the night, research show that those who usually fall asleep during the day, without any justifiable reason is said to be suffering from narcolepsy.

Find information on snoring.


Highly Recommended: Insomnia Cure at The Sleep Ninja

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