Sleep is an active state essential for mental and physical restoration. Sometimes, though, we may have problems falling asleep or have problems during sleep. These sleep disorders may interfere with our quality of life and personal health, as well as endanger public safety because of their role in industrial or traffic accidents.
Everyone has had a sleepless night at one time or another - a night where nothing you do brings the calm, soothing peace you want. Some people have sleep problems like this all the time, and they rarely get more than an hour or two of uninterrupted sleep a night. Insomnia - a prolonged and usually abnormal inability to obtain adequate sleep, has many causes and takes many forms. Some people cannot sleep at night because of anxiety or depression. Overuse of alcohol or drugs can also cause insomnia.
The sleep disorder sleep apnea causes frequent interruptions of breathing during sleep. One of the most common symptoms is a specific kind of snoring that may occur hundreds of times during the night. Each snoring episode test lasts 10 to 15 seconds and ends suddenly, often with a physical movement of the entire body. A blockage of the breathing passages actually causes the snoring; during this time the victim is in fact choking - the flow of air to the lungs stops. The episode ends when low levels of oxygen or high levels of carbon dioxide in the blood trigger breathing reflexes. Sleep apnea affects more than 12 million Americans, occurring most often among older people. People suffering from this disorder may feel listless, sleepy, and irritable during the day. Whereas insomnia is caused by mental stress, sleep apnea is usually caused by a physical problem that blocks the airway, such as enlarged tonsils, repeated infections in the throat or middle ear, or obesity. These conditions may cause the muscles at the base of the tongue to relax and sag repeatedly.
Another disorder, narcolepsy, is characterized by a permanent and overwhelming feeling of sleepiness and fatigue. Other symptoms include unusual sleep and dream patterns, such as dreamlike hallucinations or a feeling of temporary paralysis. People with narcolepsy may have sleep attacks throughout the day. The sleep attacks are accompanied by brief periods of REM sleep. Victims of narcolepsy may have difficulties in the area of work, leisure, and interpersonal relations and are prone to accidents because they have fallen asleep.
Sleepwalking and Sleeptalking
Sleepwalking is a disorder in which a person is partly, but not completely awake, during the night. That person may walk or do other things without any memory of doing so. Sleepwalking is a disorder associated with children, although some adults may sleepwalk. Most children who sleepwalk don't have emotional problems and will outgrow it. This disorder has been linked to stress, fatigue and the use by adults of sedative medicines. Sleepwalking may also be inherited. It is usually harmless; however, it may become dangerous if sleepwalkers fall or otherwise injure themselves - their movements are often clumsy. Sleeptalking is a common sleep disruption. Mosty peope talk in their sleep more than they realize because they do not remember talking during sleep. It can be a single word or a longer speech. Sometimes sleeptalkers pause between sentences or phrases as if they are carrying on a conversation with someone else. You can even engage a sleeptalker in a conversation