There is no clear-cut definition for sleep disorders. In general, however, a sleep disorder represents a disturbance of the individual’s normal sleep patterns. Clinicians suggest that there are over 75 different types of sleep disorders. Though not all of them fit the outline, most sleep affections include mental, psychological, or physical conditions, which ‘block’ our normal sleep patterns.
While there is also no consensus as regards the classification of sleep disorders, clinicians have formulated a method that categorises them into three main areas, viz., —
- Dyssomnia. Dysomnias are conditions in which the sleeper finds it difficult to fall asleep, or stay asleep.
Disorders under the condition include insomnia, narcolepsy [sleepiness during the day], sleep apnoea [sudden, momentary loss of breath during sleep], restless leg syndrome [RLS], periodic limb movement disorder, delayed sleep phase syndrome, advanced sleep phase syndrome etc.,
- Parasomnia. This includes REM [Rapid Eye Movement] sleep behaviour disorder, fear of sleep, sleepwalking or somnambulism, grinding of teeth, bed-wetting or enuresis, and so on.
- Medical/psychiatric sleep disorders. This includes conditions that disturb normal sleep. Conditions that can lead to medical/psychiatric sleeplessness include psychoses or schizophrenia, mood complaints, anxiety, depression, panic attack, chronic alcoholism etc.,
Paradoxically, sleeping sickness, a disease caused by the tse-tse fly, which is common in some parts of Africa, may also affect sleep patterns.
Likewise, snoring — which is actually not a disease — is quite often a symptom of a sleep disorder.
Some clinicians, on the other hand, offer yet another classification model. They classify sleep disorders into 2-3 categories, just as well, with modifications. There are also others that suggest the possibility of dividing sleep problems into 4-5 categories. Whatever the model, the overall distribution of sleep affections is, more or less, the same. Distress.
Confusing too, isn’t it, even though there is no real need for one to understand sleeplessness through gradations? Nevertheless, it’d, according to sleep medicine experts, make sense to highlight sleep disorders based on the nature of the underlying problem. This is relatively comprehensible. Here goes —
- Insomnia, where you are not able to just fall asleep, when you want to, or at sleep times
- Jet-lag, where your sleep patterns are out of sync with the time zone of your destination
- Narcolepsy, where you suddenly fall asleep without warning, especially during day-time
- Apprehension of sleep itself, or sleep terror disorder, where you are hastily aroused from sleep by fear
- Unintentional grinding of teeth
- Delayed sleep phase syndrome [DSPS], where your bio-clock, or circadian rhythm, is disturbed.
The list is only representative.
SIGNS OF SLEEPLESSNESS
- Frequent awakening at night
- Trouble falling asleep
- Extreme day-time drowsiness
- Extreme snoring
- Sudden, momentary loss of breath [apnoea]
- Fatigue during the wakeful hours of the day
Other equally common symptoms include —
- Mood variations
- Inability to concentrate
- Bad temper
- Memory loss, or decline
- Forceful movements of the lower extremities [legs] during sleep.
It is evidenced, or established, that millions of people suffer from sleeplessness worldwide. Millions more, it is reported, suffer from occasional sleeping problems. In general, however, clinicians report that over half of elderly adults [age 65+] experience a sleep disorder — with relatively pronounced effects.
Are you one among them, or are you an insomniac in the elderly age group?
No need to worry.
All you need to do is speak to your family physician and/or a specialist in sleep medicine. Not brood over the problem.
They will sure be able help you — by evaluating your symptoms, and addressing your problem/s – safely and effectively.