Do you know someone who snores?
Excessive snoring may be a signal that something is seriously wrong with one’s breathing during sleep. Snoring is indicative of an airway that is not properly open; indeed, the sounds of snoring coming from the body’s extra effort to force air through such a narrowed passageway. Snoring can be one of the important signals of a potentially dangerous sleep disorder called sleep apnea.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea Syndrome
Sleep apnea is a medical condition that requires careful attention and proper treatment. This disorder, which can become life-threatening, involves the frequent collapsing of the breathing passageway during sleep. This collapsing can cause a partial or complete blockage of the airway.
Symptoms of sleep apnea include excessive daytime sleepiness, weight gain, sexual dysfunction, and depression. If left untreated, obstructive sleep apnea can often lead to high blood pressure, heart failure, heart attack, and stroke.
Snoring and obstructive sleep apnea affects millions of Americans, often with significant impact on social relationships, energy levels, and cardiovascular health. Although every patient can be helped, our goal is to identify the precise source of the problem and to use noninvasive office treatments whenever possible as opposed to surgery.
Through recent advances, sleep specialists are now able to detect and diagnose breathing disorders at earlier, more treatable stages. The first step in diagnosis is to conduct a sleep study. A sleep study is used to identify and measure the different stages of sleep, as well as to record and classify various physiological activities and the problems that may be associated with these during sleep.
After the study, a board-certified physician will review and interpret these records to determine whether the patient suffers from sleep apnea, how severe it may be, and how to best proceed with treatment.
Snoring is a common problem among all ages and both genders, and it affects approximately 90 million American adults—37 million on a regular basis. Snoring can cause disruptions to your bed-partner’s sleep in addition to your own, but it is more than just a nuisance. It may be symptomatic of more serious health problems beyond fragmented, unrefreshing sleep, and poor daytime function. Snoring is linked to sleep apnea and other serious health concerns such as heart disease.
What is Insomnia?
Insomnia is characterized by an inability to sleep and/or to remain asleep for a reasonable period. Insomniacs typically complain of being unable to close their eyes or “rest their mind” for more than a few minutes at a time. Insomnia is a symptom, though a common misconception is that it is itself a sleep disorder.
Insomnia is most often caused by sleep disorders, but other causes include fear, stress, anxiety, medications, herbs, and caffeine. An overactive mind or physical pain may also be a cause. Finding the underlying cause of insomnia is usually necessary to cure it.
- Sleep apnea is a condition that occurs when a sleeping person’s breathing is interrupted, thus interrupting the normal sleep cycle. With the obstructive form of the condition, some part of the sleeper’s respiratory tract loses muscle tone and partially collapses. People with obstructive sleep apnea often do not remember any of this, but they complain of excessive sleepiness during the day. Central sleep apnea interrupts the normal breathing stimulus of the central nervous system, and the individual must actually wake up to resume breathing. This form of apnea is often related to a cerebral vascular condition, congestive heart failure, and premature aging.
- Jet lag is seen in people who travel through multiple time zones on a regular basis, as the time relative to the rising and falling of the sun no longer coincides with the body’s internal concept of it, and is also seen in people who consistently work night shifts. See also: the circadian rhythm.
- Parasomnia includes a number of disorders of arousal or disruptive sleep events including nightmares, sleepwalking, violent behavior while sleeping, and REM behavior disorder, in which a person moves his/her physical body in response to events within his/her dreams. These conditions can often be treated successfully through medical intervention or through the use of a sleep specialist.
- Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease causes repeated awakenings during the night due to unpleasant sensations resulting from stomach acid flowing up into the throat while asleep.
- Mania or Hypomania in bipolar disorder can cause difficulty falling asleep. A person going through a manic or hypomanic episode may feel a reduced need for sleep. Sleep deprivation can worsen a manic episode or cause hypomania to develop into mania.
What are Hypersomnias?
Hypersomnias are disorders that involve excessive sleepiness and difficulty staying awake during the day. If indeed, you are suffering from hypersomnia, no other identifiable causes will contribute to the predominant symptom of excessive daytime sleepiness. Persistent sleepiness lasting more than three months without abnormalities specifically related to REM sleep is called idiopathic hypersomnia. A pattern of periodic isolated episodes of sleepiness is called recurrent hypersomnia.
Daytime Sleep Studies for Hypersomnias
While sleep studies are often recognized as taking place throughout the evening, multiple sleep latency tests (MSLT) take place during the day. MSLT test excessive daytime sleepiness by measuring how quickly one falls asleep in a quiet environment during the day. This is a standard tool used to diagnose narcolepsy and idiopathic hypersomnia.
What are Parasomnias?
Parasomnias are a category of sleep disorders that involve abnormal movements, behaviors, emotions, perceptions, and dreams that occur while falling asleep, sleeping, between sleep stages, or during arousal from sleep. Most parasomnias are dissociated sleep states which are partial arousals during the transitions between wakefulness and NREM sleep, or wakefulness, and REM sleep. Some examples of parasomnias are sleepwalking, nightmares, sleep paralysis, REM sleep behavior disorder, and sleep aggression. Parasomnias can have negative effects on people both during sleep and while awake.
What are Night Terrors?
Nights terrors are episodes of screaming, intense fear, and flailing while still asleep. Also known as sleep terrors, night terrors often are paired with sleepwalking. Like sleepwalking, sleep terrors are considered a parasomnia — an undesired occurrence during sleep.
What is Sleepwalking?
Sleepwalking is a behavior disorder that originates during deep sleep and results in walking or performing other complex behaviors while asleep. It is much more common in children than adults and is more likely to occur if a person is sleep-deprived. Because a sleepwalker typically remains in deep sleep throughout the episode, he or she may be difficult to awaken and will probably not remember the sleepwalking incident.
Sleepwalking usually involves more than just walking during sleep; it is a series of complex behaviors that are carried out while sleeping, the most obvious of which is walking.
Symptoms of sleepwalking disorder range from simply sitting up in bed and looking around, to walking around the room or house, leaving the house, and even driving long distances. It is a common misconception that a sleepwalker should not be awakened. In fact, it can be quite dangerous not to wake a sleepwalker.
The prevalence of sleepwalking in the general population is estimated to be between 1% and 15%. The onset or persistence of sleepwalking in adulthood is common and is usually not associated with any significant underlying psychiatric or psychological problems. Common triggers for sleepwalking include sleep deprivation, sedative agents (including alcohol), febrile illnesses, and certain medications.
The prevalence of sleepwalking is much higher for children, especially those between the ages of three and seven, and occurs more often in children with sleep apnea. There is also a higher instance of sleepwalking among children who experience bedwetting. Sleep terrors are a related disorder and both tend to run in families.
Periodic Limb Movement Disorder
What is Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD)?
Periodic limb movements in sleep are repetitive movements, most typically in the lower limbs, that occur about every 20-40 seconds. If you have PLMD or if you sleep with someone who has PLMD, you may recognize these movements as brief muscle twitches, jerking movements, or an upward flexing of the feet. They cluster into episodes lasting anywhere from a few minutes to several hours.
Individuals with PLMD may also experience restless legs syndrome (RLS), an irritation or uncomfortable sensation in the calves or thighs, as they attempt to fall asleep or when they awaken during the night. Walking or stretching may relieve the sensations, at least temporarily. However, research also shows that many individuals have PLMD without experiencing any symptoms at all. It is not unusual for the bed partner to be the one who is most aware of the movements, since they may disturb his/her sleep.
What is Restless Leg Syndrome?
Restless leg syndrome is a common cause of painful legs. The leg pain of restless leg syndrome typically eases with motion of the legs and becomes more noticeable at rest. Restless leg syndrome also features a worsening of symptoms during the early evening or later at night.
The characteristic nighttime worsening of symptoms in persons with restless legs syndrome frequently leads to insomnia. Restless leg syndrome usually begins slowly. Over time, the legs become more affected. Less frequently, restless leg syndrome can affect the arms.
The cause of restless leg syndrome is unknown in most patients. However, restless leg syndrome has been associated with pregnancy, obesity, smoking, iron deficiency and anemia, nerve disease, polyneuropathy (which can be associated with hypothyroidism, heavy metal toxicity, toxins, and many other conditions), other hormone diseases such as diabetes, and kidney failure (which can be associated with vitamin and mineral deficiency).
Some drugs and medications have been associated with restless leg syndrome including caffeine, alcohol, H2-histamine blockers (such as Zantac and Tagamet), and certain antidepressants (such as Elavil). Occasionally, restless legs run in families. Recent studies have shown that restless leg syndrome appears to become more common with age.
Circadian Rhythm Disorder
What is Circadian Rhythm Disorder?
Circadian rhythm disorders are disruptions in a person’s circadian rhythm—a name given to the “internal body clock” that regulates the (approximately) 24-hour cycle of biological processes in animals and plants. The term circadian comes from Latin words meaning “around the day.”
The key feature of circadian rhythm disorders is a continuous or occasional disruption of sleep patterns. The disruption results from either a malfunction in the “internal body clock” or a mismatch between the “internal body clock” and the external environment regarding the timing and duration of sleep.
As a result of the circadian mismatch, individuals with these disorders usually complain of insomnia at certain times and excessive sleepiness at other times of the day, resulting in work, school, or social impairment.
What is Narcolepsy?
Narcolepsy is a chronic brain disorder that involves poor control of sleep-wake cycles. People with narcolepsy experience periods of extreme daytime sleepiness and sudden, irresistible bouts of sleep that can strike at any time. These “sleep attacks” usually last a few seconds to several minutes.
Narcolepsy can greatly affect daily activities. People may unwillingly fall asleep while at work or at school, when having a conversation, playing a game, eating a meal, or, most dangerously, when driving or operating other types of machinery.
In addition to daytime sleepiness, other major symptoms may include cataplexy (a sudden loss of voluntary muscle tone while awake that makes a person go limp or unable to move), vivid dream-like images, or hallucinations, as well as total paralysis just before falling asleep or just after waking up.
Narcolepsy Treatment in Chicago
Unfortunately, there is no cure to Narcolepsy, however, there are a variety of treatments that can significantly help. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is available to help change sleep patterns and sleeping factors.
CBT involves regular, often weekly, visits to a clinician, who gives the patient a series of sleep assessments, ask the patient to complete a sleep diary, and work with the patient in sessions to help change the way the patient sleeps.
For more information, check out Chicago Sleep Department’s Sleep Study Experience.
Can children have sleep disorders too?
Like adults, children can become sleep deprived too. Chicago Sleep Center sees children of all ages and offers sleep studies to children ages two and up. Chicago Sleep Center’s new Skokie location offers full pediatric testing and special pediatric sleep study beds for comfortable and easy testing. Additionally, our diverse and talented team of pediatric experts enables comprehensive, holistic pediatric care.
Pediatric Sleep Disorders
- Sleep Apnea
- Mouth Breathing
- Enlarged Tonsils
- Night Terrors