AARP Eye Center
Sleep has a great many functions for our bodies and minds. The benefits of a healthy night’s rest are well-proven and well-known. Similarly, the consequences of a lack of quality sleep are very apparent in our everyday lives. However, there is a more serious side to the lack of sleep—sleep disorders.
There are over 80 types of sleep disorders, according to Cleveland Clinic’s comprehensive guide. Altogether, they affect about 70 million Americans. About 75% of American adults face the symptoms of sleep disorders at least three times per week. According to Cleveland Clinic, here are some of the most common sleep disorders one can experience.
Sleep apnea can be dangerous, with one’s breathing being interrupted during sleep. Untreated, these interruptions can happen hundreds of times in a single night. The two types of sleep apnea include:
- Obstructive sleep apnea: Obstructive sleep apnea is characterized by complete or partial blockage of the airway when sleeping. This is the most common form of sleep apnea
- Central sleep apnea: This is not caused by physical blockage, but by instability in the central nervous system that results in failure to signal breathing.
Lifestyle changes may be the only intervention necessary for less severe cases. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is commonly used for obstructive sleep apnea. Otherwise, treatments may include therapy and surgery.
Insomnia is difficulty getting to sleep, staying asleep, waking up too early, or even poor sleep despite having the conditions for quality sleep. The forms of insomnia are based on one’s length of the condition, as Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Nancy Foldvary-Schafer explains:
- Acute insomnia is mostly temporary but can oftentimes have major effects. It is more common in women and those over 65. Many who have it are unaware of it, resulting in insomnia going undiagnosed and untreated.
- Chronic insomnia generally lasts for more than three months and may require treatment. Dr. Foldvary-Schaefer explains the rule of threes, “If your sleep problems happen more than three times a week and last more than three months, you may have chronic insomnia.”
Insomnia can be resolved with better sleeping habits and strategies. People with insomnia may use short-term sleeping aids. Dr. Foldvary-Schaefer emphasizes the nature of these sleeping aids being short-term and provides tips on using them. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a treatment meant to address the thoughts and behaviors that cause insomnia.
Restless Legs Syndrome
Cleveland Clinic explains, “Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a sleep disorder causing an intense, often irresistible urge to move your legs. RLS is brought on by lying down or sitting for long periods of time.” Additionally, conditions including iron deficiency, Parkinson’s, and diabetes can also be factors for RLS. RLS is more commonly experienced in women and older adults. The two types are:
- Primary, which is inherited
A variety of treatments can be used for RLS, depending on the intensity of symptoms. It may simply disappear when its factors are eliminated. Other times, medication may be needed.
Circadian Rhythm Disorders
The circadian rhythm is your body’s regulation of biological processes—including sleep. Circadian rhythm disorders are a broader category, including:
- Delayed sleep phase disorder
- Advanced sleep phase disorder
- Jet lag
- Shift work sleep disorder
Shift work sleep disorder, for one, occurs in those with changing work schedules—switching from working in the day to working at night. The circadian rhythm takes adjustment, and such sudden changes in your daily schedule cause great difficulty. Steps can be taken to mitigate this lack of regularity.
Parasomnias include unwanted physical actions or emotions during sleep. These include:
- Night terrors make those who experience them seem awake, but they are unable to communicate. They typically fall asleep afterward without any memory of the episode. These last for about 15 minutes at a time.
- Sleepwalking is most common in children and older adults. Like night terrors, those who experience sleepwalking seem awake and cannot remember sleepwalking afterward. Unlike night terrors, they are still in deep sleep, and the length of the episode varies.
- REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD) occurs during the rapid-eye-movement phase of sleep. This causes one’s dreams to be dramatic and/or violent. RBD is more common in men 50 or older.
Many of these parasomnias go away after time. RBD can sometimes require medication.
Ask Dr. Foldvary-Schaefer about sleep in AARP Ohio’s next Wellness Wednesday. Nancy Foldvary-Schafer, DO, MS, is Director of the Sleep Disorders Center and Staff in Cleveland Clinic’s Epilepsy Center. She is also Professor of Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University with a Joint Appointment in the Women’s Health Center at Cleveland Clinic.
Certified by the American Board of Neurology and Psychiatry in Neurology, Clinical Neurophysiology and Sleep Medicine and the American Board of Clinical Neurophysiology, she has treated patients with sleep disorders and epilepsy at Cleveland Clinic since 1995. She has served as a lead investigator on numerous clinical trials and has published on sleep and epilepsy, epilepsy surgery, EEG, women's issues in epilepsy and sleep disorders.
Join AARP Ohio and Cleveland Clinic for a discussion about sleep disorders and healthy sleep on July 28 at 6:30 p.m. Register now.