Symptoms and Diagnosis of Sleep Disorders
By Brandon Peters, M.D., About.com Guide
- Basics of Sleep Disorders
- Sleep Disorders: Insomnia
- Sleep Disorders: Excessive Sleepiness
- Sleep Disorders: Breathing Disruption
- Sleep Disorders: Movements
- Sleep Disorders: Behaviors
- Sleep Disorders: Altered Sleep Timing
- Sleep Disorders: Children's Sleep Problems
- Causes of Sleep Disorders
- Health Problems and Sleep Effects
- Getting a Diagnosis
Basics of Sleep Disorders
It is important to recognize that though the symptoms of sleep disorders may be similar - including excessive daytime sleepiness and fatigue - the causes may be quite distinct. Discover the varying subtleties of sleep disorders and learn some of the basic symptoms for each.
- Overview of Common Sleep Disorders
- Overview of Symptoms of Sleep Disorders
- 10 Common Symptoms of Sleep Disorders
Sleep Disorders: Insomnia
Insomnia is difficulty falling or staying asleep or sleep that is simply not refreshing. It is the most common sleep disorder, affecting nearly 1 in 3 people. It should be distinguished from other disruptions of sleep, including sleep deprivation.
Sleep Disorders: Excessive Sleepiness
Sleep disorders often result in excessive daytime sleepiness. When we feel too sleepy, a condition called hypersomnia, we are unable to function at our best. This most commonly is due to inadequate sleep. Less often it may result from conditions such as narcolepsy or chronic fatigue syndrome. There are even rare conditions such as Kleine-Levin syndrome and African sleeping sickness that might leave us feeling overly tired.
Sleep Disorders: Breathing Disruption
Some sleep disorders can disrupt your breathing during sleep. Most often this results in snoring, but if the airway becomes completely blocked it may cause obstructive sleep apnea. A similar condition called central sleep apnea can interrupt breathing, but it originates from within the brain.
- What Is Ondine's Curse?
- Sleep Apnea in Elderly
- Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
- Obesity Hypoventilation Syndrome
Sleep Disorders: Movements
Unintentional or uncontrolled movements may also occur when transitioning to or during sleep. This may be due to restless legs syndrome (RLS) or periodic limb movements of sleep. Uncontrolled twitches (called myoclonus) or painful cramps may also occur. A sense of falling may result in a sudden night start. People with epilepsy may even be subject to nighttime seizures.
- Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)
- What Are Restless Legs?
- Symptoms of Restless Legs
- Periodic Limb Movements of Sleep
- Nocturnal Myoclonus
Sleep Disorders: Behaviors
Abnormal behaviors called parasomnias may occur during sleep. The most common examples include sleepwalking and sleep talking. Complex actions such as sleep eating may also occur. Some people inappropriately act out their dreams as part of REM behavior disorder. When dream sleep persists into wakefulness it may cause sleep paralysis, resulting in an inability to move and vivid hallucinations.
- Sleep Terrors in Adults
- REM Behavior Disorder
- Sleep Paralysis
- Symptoms of Sleep Paralysis
- Is It Sleep Paralysis or a Night Terror?
Sleep Disorders: Altered Sleep Timing
When the timing of sleep becomes disrupted, it may result in falling asleep or waking too early or too late. These conditions are often called circadian rhythm disorders, referring to our body's natural patterns as timed to day and night. One transient example is jet lag, which occurs as the result of long-distance travel. Disrupted sleep patterns may also occur as part of shift work sleep disorder. Seasonal mood problems and sleep disturbance characterize seasonal affective disorder.
- Circadian Rhythm Disorders
- Jet Lag
- Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome
- Delayed Sleep Phase in Teenagers
- Advanced Sleep Phase Syndrome
- Irregular Sleep-Wake Rhythm
- Shift-Work Sleep Disorder
- Does Shift Work Become Harder As We Get Older?
- Nonentrained Circadian Rhythm Disorder
- Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
- How Divided Sleep Periods Affect You
Sleep Disorders: Children's Sleep Problems
Children may also suffer from sleep disorders that affect adults, including insomnia and narcolepsy. They also may be subject to unique conditions such as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Children more frequently experience bedwetting and sleep terrors. They may have nightmares and confusional arousals. These conditions should not be overlooked by parents as they may have important consequences.
- Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
- What Is SIDS?
- Sleep Terrors
- Confusional Arousals
- Behavioral Insomnia
- Sleep-onset Insomnia
- Limit-setting Insomnia
- Sleep-related Rhythmic Movement Disorder
Causes of Sleep Disorders
As sleep disorders can be so very distinctive, the underlying causes can also be quite diverse. Disruptions in breathing due to an obstructed airway may lead to sleep apnea while stress could trigger insomnia. It may be possible to improve your sleep by recognizing and eliminating the underlying cause of your sleep disorder. Therefore, it is useful to carefully consider these causes as an important step in getting better.
- Overview of Causes of Sleep Disorders
- Short-Term Insomnia
- Long-Term Insomnia
- What Factors Lead to Insomnia
- Causes of Insomnia in Children
- Sleep Apnea
- Risk Factors for Sleep Apnea
- How Sleep Apnea Occurs
- Alcohol and Sleep Apnea
- How Sleep Position Impacts Snoring
- Sleep Apnea in Children
- Large Tonsils in Children
- Risk Factors for SIDS
- Causes of SIDS
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Causes of Restless Legs Syndrome
- Causes of Sleep Paralysis
- What Substances Cause Nightmares
- Caffeine Withdrawal
- Bed Bugs
Health Problems and Sleep Effects
Many health problems can profoundly, and sometimes unexpectedly, affect our ability to sleep. Chronic medical conditions might lead us to feel sleepy or fatigued, and it is sometimes necessary to eliminate these as a potential cause of our problems.
- How Does Being Overweight Affect Your Sleep?
- How Does Smoking Affect Sleep?
- Smoking and Snoring
- Deviated Septum
- Medications and Sleep Apnea
- Neck Size and Sleep
- Obesity and Restless Legs
- Cancer-Related Fatigue
- Vitamin Deficiency and Insomnia
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Nightmares
- Do Blind People Dream?
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Panic Disorder
Getting a Diagnosis
If you believe that you suffer from a sleep disorder, how should you go about getting a diagnosis? Educate yourself on how to find a sleep specialist or sleep center. Find out what testing should be done, and what options are available to you. Actively preparing yourself for the process will also help when the diagnosis becomes clear.
- How to Choose a Sleep Doctor
- What Is a Sleep Clinic?
- What Is a Sleep Lab?
- What Is a Sleep Tech?
- Diagnostic Tests for Sleep Disorders
- What to Expect in a Sleep Study
- Multiple Sleep Latency Testing (MSLT)
- Maintenance of Wakefulness Test
- Overnight Oximetry