Common Sleep Disorders

Important: Sleepiness and sleep disorders are serious health concerns and cannot always be mitigated by healthy sleep habits.

According to the CDC, an estimated 70 million Americans chronically live with sleep or circadian-related conditions. Sleep conditions are real and need to be addressed by a sleep specialist. Below you will find an important sleep disorders self-assessment tool and short descriptions of common and serious sleep disorders.

Could I have a sleep condition?

Ask the basic questions:

  1. “Do I have trouble sleeping at night on a regular basis?”
  2. “Do I have trouble staying awake during the day on a regular basis?”

Take the Sleep Disorders Screener

The Sleep Disorders Symptom Checklist-25 (SDSCL-25) is an important new self-assessment tool to help individuals identify signs and symptoms of 13 major sleep disorders. This is a decision support tool and not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The online survey takes 3-5 minutes to complete.

If you think you or someone you love might have a sleep disorder, it is important to consult a board-certified sleep medicine physician. A good place to start is to contact a local AASM Accredited Sleep Center.

What do sleep disorders look like?

Sleep and circadian-related disorders are often invisible and may be hard to detect. Sleepiness may manifest as issues with behavior, mood regulation, memory, concentration or sustained attention.  It’s important to take the sleep disorders screener and learn more about the signs and symptoms of common and serious sleep conditions.

What kind of doctor should you visit about possible sleep condition?

Be proactive! Not all doctors are familiar with sleep disorders. Your journey will likely begin with your primary care doctor, but it’s important to consult with a Board-Certified Sleep Specialist. A good place to start is contacting an AASM Accredited Sleep Center.  If you suspect you may have a particular condition, we highly recommend choosing a doctor who specializes in that condition.

Common and Serious Sleep Conditions:

Circadian Rhythm Sleep-Wake Disorders (CRSWDs) are neurological disorders in which the sleep-wake cycle is out of sync with the day-night cycle. As a result, individuals may experience insomnia-like symptoms at night and excessive sleepiness during the day, greatly impacting typical work, school, and social schedules. Circadian Rhythm Disorders include Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder, Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder, Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder, Irregular Sleep Wake Disorder and Shift Work Disorder.

Idiopathic Hypersomnia is a chronic sleep disorder involving persistent sleepiness lasting more than 3 months without abnormal tendencies to enter REM sleep.  In addition to excessive daytime sleepiness, symptoms include daily sleep amounts of 10 hours or more and extreme sleep inertia, difficulties waking up with alarm clocks, feeling groggy for long period of times. Idiopathic hypersomnia is diagnosed when a person displays symptoms for at least 3 months, the disorder has a significant impact on the person’s life, and other causes of excessive daytime sleepiness have been excluded.

Insomnia is a chronic or acute sleep disorder characterized by a complaint of difficulty falling asleep, waking up frequently during the night, waking up too early, or feeling unrefreshed after waking. Chronic insomnia affects nearly one out of five adults and is a risk factor for depression, substance abuse, and impaired waking function.

Kleine-Levin Syndrome (KLS) is a rare and complex neurological disorder characterized by recurring periods of excessive amounts of sleep, altered behavior, and a reduced understanding of the world. The disorder strikes adolescents primarily but can occur in younger children and adults. At the onset of an episode the patient becomes progressively drowsy and sleeps for most of the day and night (hypersomnolence), sometimes waking only to eat or go to the bathroom. Each episode lasts days, weeks or months during which time all normal daily activities stop. Individuals are not able to care for themselves or attend school and work. In between episodes, those with KLS appear to be in perfect health with no evidence of behavioral or physical dysfunction.

Narcolepsy is a chronic neurological disorder of the sleep/wake cycle that usually develops during childhood or young adulthood. Symptoms of narcolepsy include excessive daytime sleepiness, fragmented nighttime sleep, cataplexy (sudden muscle weakness triggered by emotions like laughter, surprise, annoyance, or exhilaration), sleep paralysis (temporary inability to talk or move when falling asleep or waking up) and hypnagogic hallucinations (vivid hallucinations that may be terrifying while falling asleep or waking up). An estimated 1 in 2,000 people have narcolepsy worldwide.

Parasomnias are unusual events or experiences that happen while falling asleep, sleeping, or waking up. They can range from simple experiences and actions like waking up in the middle of the night in a disoriented state or groaning while asleep, to complex behaviors such as sleep walking and eating, and vivid experiences like nightmares and hallucinations.

REM Sleep Behavior Disorder (RBD) is a condition that causes people to act or talk out their dreams (“dream enactment”) during their rapid eye movement (REM) sleep cycle.  Dream enactments can be very active, leading to potential injuries from falling or striking an object or bed partner.  There are several risk factors for RBD, including being above age 50, having narcolepsy, environmental exposures, taking certain antidepressants, or severe head injury.  People with RBD often, but not always, develop a neurodegenerative condition later in life such as Parkinson’s Disease or Lewy Body Dementia.  RBD will affect 5% of the population over age 60, sometimes subtle and going unnoticed for years, especially without a bed partner.

Learn more about RBD and register for inclusion in ongoing research: NAPS Consortium for REM Sleep Behavior Disorder

Restless legs syndrome (RLS) or Willis-Ekbom disease (WES) is a neurological movement disorder that is often associated with a sleep complaint. RLS may affect up to 15 percent of the population. People with RLS suffer an almost irresistible urge to move their legs, usually due to disagreeable leg sensations that are worse during inactivity and often interfere with sleep. RLS sufferers report experiencing creeping, crawling, pulling, or tingling sensations in the legs (or sometimes in the arms), which are relieved by moving or rubbing them. Sitting still for long periods becomes difficult; symptoms are usually worse in the evening and night and less severe in the morning. Periodic leg movements, which often coexist with restless leg syndrome, are characterized by repetitive, stereotyped limb movements during sleep. Periodic limb movement disorder can be detected by monitoring patients during sleep.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) is a chronic disorder characterized by inability to maintain adequate ventilation during sleep due to sleep-related increase in upper airway resistance, while breathing during wakefulness is satisfactory. Sleep-disordered breathing, including obstructive sleep apnea, affects more than 15% of the population.

Sleep-related movement disorders are conditions that cause unusual movements that happen while falling asleep, sleeping, or waking up. They can be inherited, related to stress, poor sleep, or other medical conditions, or due to unknown causes. They may not require treatment unless they interfere with a person’s health and safety.

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