It is important to diagnose a sleep disorder. A good night’s sleep is essential to optimal functioning in wakefulness. Sleep is the brain”s way of re-charging. Sleep disorders can lead to many problems such as depression, irritability, concentration difficulties and cognitive decline. Due to heightened stress and fatigue, lack of sleep can weaken the immune system. From a physician’s point of view, it is essential to screen for sleep disorders by asking a few simple questions. Treatment of sleep disorders can result in better overall health and improve a person’s ability to function on a daily basis.
Types of Sleep Disorders
Insomnia – – There are two forms of Insomnia – those characterized by difficulty falling asleep and those characterized by difficulty staying asleep. Insomnia can result from various conditions ranging from stress and anxiety, pain syndromes to movement disorders such as Restless Leg Syndrome. Insomnia can be a harbinger of other medical or neurological conditions such as iron deficiency anemia to Parkinson Disease. .
Sleep Apnea occurs when breathing stops during sleep or becomes very shallow for 10-20 second periods. This results in a decrease in oxygen to the brain (hypoxia). Hypoxia has been recognized as a powerful contributor to neurological stress and may contribute to epilepsy and cognitive decline. Sleep Apnea is a serious condition that can be life-threatening. It can also complicate the administration of anesthesia.
Narcolepsy is a condition in which a person becomes very sleepy during the day, sometimes even falling asleep while working, driving, or doing other activities. It is often familial and a simple blood test can detect it. It can also be diagnosed by having a Multiple Sleep Latentcy Test. Sometimes it is associated with ”cataplexy” or involuntary sleep attacks which can make a normal life almost impossible. Treatments are available which can promote wakefulness.
Snoring may cause sleep apnea and result from poor sleeping posture or abnormalities in the throat. Snoring is not necessarily serious for the snorer, but it can lead to insomnia for his or her bed partners. Sleep apnea caused by snoring may be ameliorated by weight loss, CPAP devices, dental devices, improved sleeping posture and surgical intervention.
Shift Work Disorders occurs when a persons sleep cycle is forced to change because of the need to work night shifts.
Diagnosis of Sleep Disorders
Some degree of self-diagnosis may be necessary since your doctor can not always monitor your sleeping patterns. Patients with sleep problems and daytime sleepiness should keep a “sleep diary,” a small notebook on the bed stand where they can take notes on sleep disturbances, times, and other information that can assist the doctor in making an accurate diagnosis and designing an effective treatment plan.