Common Sleep Disorders
Take a moment to assess your symptoms for a sleep disorder. If you answered “yes” to any of these, you may have sleep apnea or another sleep disorder.
- I snore
- I experience excessive daytime sleepiness
- I wake up gasping for air
- I wake up with heartburn/reflux
- I have trouble losing weight
- I have morning headaches
- It is hard for me to stay awake while driving
- I’ve been told that I fall asleep incredibly fast
- I’ve been told that I stop breathing while I sleep
Sleep apnea is the most common sleep disorder, affecting more than 20 million Americans. If you have sleep apnea, you will actually stop breathing during your sleep due to an intermittent blockage in the windpipe. The breathing obstruction forces you to repeatedly awaken with a cough or gasp to reopen the airway. This disruptive cycle repeats hundreds of times each night, causing progressively disturbed, restless sleep.
Untreated sleep apnea can result in serious health consequences over time. These include increased incidence of stroke and sudden death, high blood pressure and heart disease, depression and anxiety, and type 2 diabetes.
Sleep apnea is also a major contributor to car accidents, as sleep-deprived drivers have up to a 15-fold greater risk of accidents.
Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
Symptoms of sleep apnea include loud, habitual snoring and extreme daytime sleepiness. Sleep apnea has other medical consequences such as depression, mood change, memory loss, weight gain, erectile dysfunction, and headaches. Associated risks also include heart attacks, stroke, hypertension, irregular heart rhythms, heart failure, and sudden death. Proper treatment can improve cardiovascular outcomes.
Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea
- Body mass index (BMI) over 30, although 50 percent of people with sleep apnea are not obese
- Large neck circumference (men: more than 17 inches; women: more than 16 inches)
- Male (twice as likely to have sleep apnea as females)
- Large tonsils or adenoids
- Other distinctive physical attributes including deviated septum, shape of head and neck, receding chin, enlarged tongue
- Nasal congestion or blockage, from cold, sinusitis, allergies, smoking, etc.
- Throat muscles and tongue that relax more than normal during sleep (possibly due to alcohol or sedatives or advanced age)
- Family history of sleep apnea, which may be a result of hereditary anatomic features or medical conditions that are genetic
Periodic Limb Movement Syndrome
Periodic limb movement syndrome, which often coexists with sleep apnea, causes people to repeatedly awaken to involuntary thrashing movements, most typically of the legs. During testing, a patient’s leg muscle movements are recorded to help diagnose this disorder.
Less common than sleep apnea, narcolepsy is a genetic sleep disorder that causes excessive daytime sleepiness that can seriously interfere with a person’s ability to function properly.
The Center for Sleep Medicine tests for this condition using a multiple sleep latency test (MSLT). Conducted during the day, this test can objectively measure excessive daytime sleepiness to make a definitive diagnosis.
Often resulting from anxiety or stress, insomnia may occasionally reflect a sleep disorder. The center can perform tests to determine if the cause is insomnia.