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Sleep disorders dysomnias insomnia narcolepsy sleep apnea restless legs syndrome delayed sleep phase syndrome night terror sleepwalking (somnambulism) bedwetting sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) sleeping sickness sleep paralysis snoring bruxism jet lag


Dyssomnias are a broad classification of sleeping disorder that make it difficult to get to sleep, or to stay sleeping. Dyssomnias include insomnia, Sleep apnea, Narcolepsy, restless legs syndrome, periodic limb movement disorder, hypersomnia, delayed sleep phase syndrome, advanced sleep phase syndrome. There are over 30 recognized kinds of

dyssomnias. Major groups of dyssomnias include:

Intrinsic sleep disorders - 12 disorders recognized, including Narcolepsy, Obstructive Sleep Apnea, and Restless legs syndrome.

Extrinsic sleep disorders - 13 disorders recognized, including inadequate sleep hygiene, food allergy insomnia, and alcohol-dependent sleep disorder.

Circadian rhythm disorders - 6 disorders recognized, including Jetlag, Shift work sleep disorder, Delayed sleep phase syndrome, and Advanced sleep phase syndrome.

Dyssomnias are primary sleep disorders in which the patient suffers from changes in the amount, restfulness, and timing of sleep. The most important dyssomnia is primary insomnia, which is defined as difficulty in falling asleep or remaining asleep that lasts for at least one month. It is estimated that 35% of adults in the United States experience insomnia during any given year, but the number of these adults who are experiencing true primary insomnia is unknown. Primary insomnia can be caused by a traumatic event related to sleep or bedtime, and it is often associated with increased physical or psychological arousal at night. People who experience primary insomnia are often anxious about not being able to sleep. The person may then associate all sleep-related things (their bed, bedtime, etc.) with frustration, making the problem worse. The person then becomes more stressed about not sleeping. Primary insomnia usually begins when the person is a young adult or in middle age.

Hypersomnia is a condition marked by excessive sleepiness during normal waking hours. The patient has either lengthy episodes of daytime sleep or episodes of daytime sleep on a daily basis even though he or she is sleeping normally at night. In some cases, patients with primary hypersomnia have difficulty waking in the morning and may appear confused or angry. This condition is sometimes called sleep drunkenness and is more common in males. The number of people with primary hypersomnia is unknown, although 5-10% of patients in sleep disorder clinics have the disorder. Primary hypersomnia usually affects young adults between the ages of 15- 30.

Nocturnal myoclonus and restless legs syndrome (RLS) can cause either insomnia or hypersomnia in adults. Patients with nocturnal myoclonus wake up because of cramps or twitches in the calves. These patients feel sleepy the next day. Nocturnal myoclonus is sometimes called periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD). RLS patients have a crawly or aching feeling in their calves that can be relieved by moving or rubbing the legs. RLS often prevents the patient from falling asleep until the early hours of the morning, when the condition is less intense.

Kleine-Levin syndrome is a recurrent form of hypersomnia that affects a person three or four times a year. Doctors do not know the cause of this syndrome. It is marked by two to three days of sleeping 18-20 hours per day, hypersexual behavior, compulsive eating, and irritability. Men are three times more likely than women to have the syndrome. As of 1998, there is no cure for this disorder.

Narcolepsy is a dyssomnia characterized by recurrent "sleep attacks" that the patient cannot fight. The sleep attacks are about 10-20 minutes long. The patient feels refreshed by the sleep, but typically feels sleepy again several hours later. Narcolepsy has three major symptoms in addition to sleep attacks: cataplexy, hallucinations, and sleep paralysis. Cataplexy is the sudden loss of muscle tone and stability ("drop attacks"). Hallucinations may occur just before falling asleep (hypnagogic) or right after waking up (hypnopompic) and are associated with an episode of REM sleep. Sleep paralysis occurs during the transition from being asleep to waking up. About 40% of patients with narcolepsy have or have had another mental disorder. Although narcolepsy is often regarded as an adult disorder, it has been reported in children as young as three years old. Almost 18% of patients with narcolepsy are 10 years old or younger. It is estimated that 0.02-0.16% of the general population suffer from narcolepsy. Men and women are equally affected.

Breathing-related sleep disorders are syndromes in which the patient's sleep is interrupted by problems with his or her breathing. There are three types of breathing-related sleep disorders:

Obstructive sleep apnea syndrome. This is the most common form of breathing-related sleep disorder, marked by episodes of blockage in the upper airway during sleep. It is found primarily in obese people. Patients with this disorder typically alternate between periods of snoring or gasping (when their airway is partly open) and periods of silence (when their airway is blocked). Very loud snoring is a clue to this disorder.

Central sleep apnea syndrome. This disorder is primarily found in elderly patients with heart or neurological conditions that affect their ability to breathe properly. It is not associated with airway blockage and may be related to brain disease.

Central alveolar hypoventilation syndrome. This disorder is found most often in extremely obese people. The patient's airway is not blocked, but his or her blood oxygen level is too low.

Mixed-type sleep apnea syndrome. This disorder combines symptoms of both obstructive and central sleep apnea.

Circadian rhythm sleep disorders are dyssomnias resulting from a discrepancy between the person's daily sleep/wake patterns and demands of social activities, shift work, or travel. The term circadian comes from a Latin word meaning daily. There are three circadian rhythm sleep disorders. Delayed sleep phase type is characterized by going to bed and arising later than most people. Jet lag type is caused by travel to a new time zone. Shift work type is caused by the schedule of a person's job. People who are ordinarily early risers appear to be more vulnerable to jet lag and shift work-related circadian rhythm disorders than people who are "night owls". There are some patients who do not fit the pattern of these three disorders and appear to be the opposite of the delayed sleep phase type. These patients have an advanced sleep phase pattern and cannot stay awake in the evening, but wake up on their own in the early morning.

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All information is intended for reference only. Please consult your physician for accurate medical advices and treatment. Copyright 2005,, all rights reserved. Last update: July 18, 2005