The most common sleep disorders include:
- Sleep Apnea: A person’s breathing is interrupted during sleep and causes them to wake up many times during the evening. It is most common in men, people who are overweight or obese, smokers and people over age 65. Long-term untreated sleep apnea can increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke and other complications.
- Insomnia: People have difficulty falling asleep, wake up during and have trouble returning to sleep, wake up too early or generally have poor quality sleep.
- Restless Leg Syndrome: Leg discomfort (pain, pulling or other sensations) causes people to wake up frequently during sleep.
- Narcolepsy: Even after sleeping during the evening, people have excessive daytime sleepiness and may fall asleep at inappropriate times and places.
What can you do about sleep disorders?
If you have difficulty getting quality sleep, speak with your primary care physician. Primary care doctors can thoroughly assess their patients and make sure their sleep difficulty is not being caused by other health-related issues.
Many physicians will recommend that their patients undergo a sleep test (polysomnogram). Patients spend the night at a sleep center while electrodes and other monitors are placed on the scalp, face, chest, limbs and finger. The painless, non-invasive test measures brain activity, eye movements, muscle activity, heart rate and rhythm, blood pressure, air moving through the lungs and the amount of oxygen in the blood.
Physicians may encourage patients with sleep apnea to wear a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) while they sleep. This machine gently blows air through a mask worn over the mouth and nose to prevent airways from being narrowed or blocked during sleep. Medications can also be prescribed for patients with sleep disorders. Behavioral modifications or techniques such as relaxation therapy can often correct insomnia.