Monday, August 25, 2008

Sleeping Disorders Are Serious Business

Sleep is an essential part of a healthy life. Though we still aren't sure why we need sleep, the lack of it can cause many problems that can eventually lead to serious health conditions. We need sleep to live. The most common sleep disorders are insomnia, restless leg syndrome, narcolepsy and sleep apnea.

It is estimated that nearly 40 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders, but unfortunately many go undiagnosed. Most sleep disorders can be cured or at least managed with the proper care and diagnosis, so if you are experiencing irritability, sleepiness or lack of concentration, you may want to talk to your doctor and make sure you are getting adequate sleep.

Insomnia is a very common sleep disorder and affects most people at one time or another for various reasons. It can be brought on by drinking too much caffeine, drinking caffeine too late at night or even by simply having a stressful day or new or uncomfortable sleeping conditions. Insomnia may be experienced by not being able to fall asleep, or if you do fall asleep easily you may wake during the night and be unable to stay asleep. It may also be characterized by waking up too early or not feeling refreshed after waking in the morning. While everyone will experience insomnia at one time or another, chronic insomnia is characterized by reoccurring insomnia night after night for a period of at least three nights, but can last for weeks or months.

How to cure it? Insomnia will usually diminish when the factors that are causing it are eliminated. Cutting caffeine, reducing stress and creating comfortable sleeping conditions can usually resolve insomnia.

Restless leg syndrome is characterized by unusual sensations in the legs that result in the desire to move the legs in order to relieve symptoms. It can feel like creeping, tugging or burning , and can be just slightly irritable to painful. Restless leg syndrome, like insomnia, can usually be relieved by lifestyle changes such as limiting caffeine or tobacco, taking iron, magnesium or folate supplements, or changing your sleeping patterns. Others find that hot baths, massage and heating pads or ice packs can help with symptoms.

Sleep apnea is a serious sleeping disorder that is characterized by abnormal breathing while one is sleeping. If the disorder is not treated it can lead to other conditions, such as stroke, reduced heart functioning and hypertension. Sleep apnea is either obstructive or central. Obstructive Sleep Apnea is due to the obstruction of air passages in the neck and throat and is the most common form of sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea is due to the brain signaling the respiratory muscles to breathe. For mild sleep apnea a doctor may suggest lifestyle changes, but if the case is seriously debilitating there are many devices that may help and in extreme cases, surgery may be needed.

Narcolepsy is another serious sleep disorder that is thought to be caused by a chemical deficiency in the brain, though no one knows the exact cause. Narcolepsy is characterized by falling asleep throughout the day, without any warning. This can happen while talking, while driving, or while doing any other normal daily activity. Many people will wake up as quickly as they fell asleep and resume normal activities as if nothing has happened. Unfortunately, this type of sleeping disorder seriously impacts daily activities and can be very dangerous. There are many medications that can help narcolepsy, but there is no cure.

Sleep disorders are serious conditions. See you doctor is you are experiencing any form of sleep disturbances.

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