-- We have identified three basic categories of insomnia:
Transient insomnia lasts only a few
nights and is usually brought on by stress, excitement or a change in sleep
timing or environment.
Short-term insomnia is poor sleep
spanning two or three weeks and can be caused by ongoing stress, as well as
medical or psychiatric problems. Alleviating the source will usually return
sleep to normal. Recurring episodes are common.
Chronic insomnia lasts more than a
month and can be related to underlying medical, behavioral or psychiatric
problems, such as depression.
- Sleep Apnea -- A potentially
life-threatening disorder, sleep apnea is literally a "lack of
breath" generally signified by loud snoring. There are three basic
types: Obstructive apnea is the most common and severe type. The muscles at
the back of the throat relax to the point of obstructing the upper
Breathing can actually stop for 10
seconds or more causing mini-awakenings, which are usually not remembered,
several hundred times a night as the sleeper gasps for air. Loud snoring is
common. Central apnea is when the airways stay open but the diaphragm and
chest muscles stop working and the sleeper must awaken several times a night
to resume breathing, sometimes with a gasp. Sufferers of this relatively
uncommon disorder may complain of insomnia or restless sleep. Snoring may
not be a symptom.
Mixed apnea is a combination of the
two, usually a brief period of central apnea followed by a longer period of
obstructive apnea. The combination is common. Complications arising from
sleep apnea can include high blood pressure, increased risk of heart attacks
and stroke, and even heart failure in severe cases.
- Narcolepsy -- For sufferers of
narcolepsy, the need for sleep is frequent and irresistible. "Sleep
attacks" can happen anytime, during a conversation or even while
driving, and last a few seconds or more than 30 minutes.
Narcolepsy affects the part of the
brain that regulates sleep and wakefulness, resulting in the sudden onset of
REM, or rapid eye movement, sleep. Symptoms typically begin between puberty
and age 25. They may develop slowly over months or years, and excessive
daytime sleepiness is generally the earliest sign. There is no existing cure
for narcolepsy, but lifestyle changes may help.
- Restless Legs Syndrome --
Tingling, crawling or prickling sensations in the legs characterize restless
legs syndrome, or RLS. It is most common in people over age 65. Rubbing the
legs, getting up and walking around, or taking a hot shower usually offers
only temporary relief. The discomfort and sleeplessness that accompany RLS
can lead to serious psychological distress and depression. There is no cure
for this disorder, but a number of prescription medications are being used
to treat it.