Unfortunately, millions of people are affected by some form of sleep disorder or another. Sleep disorders are found in various forms and some of the most familiar ones include:
- Sleep Apnea
- Sleep Walking
- Sleeping problems due to shift work
With so many various forms of sleeping disorders and treatments, it is vital that you get the correct diagnosis from your doctor. There are several tests that can help determine what your sleep disorder is.
One of the first things your doctor will do is get a medical history along with a full physical exam. This will help identify if any other health issues are present, this could be the reason for you not sleeping.
During your test you need to be honest with your doctor. Especially with your use of any prescription or non-prescription medications, your alcohol and tobacco usage, along with how much caffeine you consume.
If this checkup does not reveal the cause of your sleep disorder then further, specialized testing can be performed. There are several 'sleep disorder' tests that can help with this.
The first is known as a Polysomnography or a sleep study test. A test is performed where electrodes are attached to your face and scalp. This is so your brain waves can be measured along with your muscle tone. This test is similar to an EEG and is run overnight while you sleep.
During this test your airflow, breathing effort, blood oxygen levels and leg movements are also monitored. In some areas a portable, at home, sleep monitor can be used to determine the same things.
A multiple sleep latency test or MSLT is used to measure daytime sleepiness. During this test you will be allowed to have four of five naps in a quiet room during the day. This test is often performed at 2 or 3 hour intervals.
The test will measure how long it takes you to get to sleep from being awake and this measures your sleep latency. During the repeated naps, an average can be calculated. If your sleep latency shows 5 minutes or less then you are dealing with severe daytime sleepiness.
Another test that is performed is the Wakefulness Test, or MWT. This measures your ability to stay awake while resting in a quiet, dark room.
There is also a test which is given in the form of a questionnaire. This is known as the Epworth Sleepiness Scale, and your doctor will normally give this to you. The tests asks a variety of questions about how long it takes you to fall asleep in various situations.
Common Sleep Disorders
Over 40 million Americans are thought to be dealing with some type of chronic sleep disorder. In addition to those numbers there are millions who have to deal with occasional insomnia or disrupted sleep patterns.
To date there are over 70 different types of sleep disorders with the most common being:
- Sleep Apnea
- Restless Leg Syndrome
Insomnia is the one that most people are familiar with. It is defined as experiencing a poor quality of sleep and it includes not being able to fall asleep or to stay asleep.
Insomnia is extremely common and occurs in almost 50% of the U.S. population. About 10% of people are dealing with chronic insomnia, this is insomnia which has been going on for years.
Sleep Apnea is a disorder that affects your breathing. People with sleep apnea will have a reduction in their breathing patterns and they may pause breathing altogether.
There are two different types of sleep apnea:
- Central Sleep Apnea - is where the brain does not send signals to the muscles to breath.
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea - is where the brain does send a signal to the muscles to breathe. What happens is that the person's airway is obstructed and prevents the correct amount of air flow to pass.
It is possible to suffer with both forms of sleep apnea. Many people with this condition are obese and have to sleep with breathing apparatus during the night.
Restless Leg Syndrome is a sleep disorder that makes a person feel uncomfortable sensations in their legs. The person may also have an uncontrollable desire to move their legs.
This is not a condition where your legs cramp. Rather, that you experience strange feelings such as tingling, pins and needles, pulling or a prickly feeling.
It is thought that the reason this causes sleep issues is because it is so difficult to find a comfortable position for your legs.
Narcolepsy is a disease that affects your central nervous system. This results in you experiencing daytime sleepiness, known as EDS. People who have narcolepsy often have loss of muscle tone, hallucinations, and an inability to move or talk.
These symptoms can be present together or individually and they can be in various forms of severity.
If you think you may be suffering from any of these sleep disorders then consult with your doctor for further advice.
This post is for informational purposes only. It should not be considered therapy. This blog is only for informational and educational purposes and should not be considered therapy or any form of treatment. We are not able to respond to specific questions or comments about personal situations, appropriate diagnosis or treatment, or otherwise provide any clinical opinions. If you think you need immediate assistance, call your local doctor/psychologist or psychiatrist or the SADAG Mental Health Line on 011 234 4837. If necessary, please phone the Suicide Crisis Line on 0800 567 567 or sms 31393.