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Sometimes we spend a couple of days without being able to sleep. Other times we can spend weeks or even months with the same problem. Sleep disorders are some of the most underestimated health problemas that affect many people. Here are some of them.

It is bedtime, but my body does not care

Many people complain about not being able to sleep properly for days, or even weeks, and it may seem that insomnia is the only problem related to this vital activity, but sleep disorders go beyond it. Researchers from the University Paris Descartes conducted a survey of sleeping problems in the U.S., Western Europe and Japanese population. Results of this study indicated that 56% of the U.S. population, 31% of the population in Western Europe and 28% of the Japanese suffered from a sleep disorder, but only half of the people affected reported their problem and received treatment. So, even though sleep disorders are a major problem worldwide, they are most of the times under-reported and therefore, not treated.

Facing difficulties to get to sleep

There are more than 80 sleep disorders that have been identified by the International Classification of Sleep Disorders (ICSD); at the same time, these are classified in 8 main categories.

The first category is the insomnias. Have you ever experienced difficulty to fall asleep? Or do you wake up constantly during the night and feel all tired in the morning? These two symptoms are the ones that characterize insomnia.

Primary insomnias are caused by a specific stressor, which can go from a bad mattress to a very important meeting with your boss that is keeping you all stressed and awake during the whole night.

Sometimes, insomnias do not have a specific cause or are a consequence of bad sleeping habits, like taking several naps during the day. These types of insomnias can either last a few days or for several months.

Secondary insomnias are caused by a disease, so they are basically a symptom of a different health problem.

For example, people that suffer from a mental disorder or have a drug abuse problem usually have severe sleeping difficulties.

Snoring and sleeping more than you should

The second classification includes sleep disorders caused by breathing problems. Apnea is the main breathing problem that patients suffer from and that causes them to have poor quality sleep. 

Apnea occurs when the respiration cycles are intermittent or stop for short periods of time.

Usually, people with breathing difficulties snore quite a lot, because their airways are obstructed and air can flow normally through them, producing that horrible sound. Apart form being annoying, snoring is a sign of a breathing problem that should be taken care off, for the sake of the patient and the one that share his or her bed with.

Is sleeping more than 8 hours a day a problem? Yes, it is, and it is known as hypersomnia.  

This is the fourth disorder in the classification of the (ICSD) and it is diagnosed when you feel excessively sleepy during the day without any reason, since your night-time sleep is not disturbed.

Narcolepsy is the most known illness of this group of sleep disorders, but there are many more. Narcoleptics tend to fall asleep anywhere at anytime due to the loss of neurons that regulate sleep cycles. They also experience what is known as cataplexy, which is the loss of muscle function.  

Continue reading after recommendations

  • LEGER, D., POURSAIN, B., NEUBAUER, D. & UCHIYAMA, M. 2008. An international survey of sleeping problems in the general population. Curr Med Res Opin, 24, 307-17
  • PAGEL, J. F. & PARNES, B. L. 2001. Medications for the Treatment of Sleep Disorders: An Overview. Prim Care Companion J Clin Psychiatry, 3, 118-125
  • THORPY, M. J. 2012. Classification of sleep disorders. Neurotherapeutics, 9, 687-701.
  • Photo by shutterstock.com
  • Photo courtesy of Alyssa L. Miller by Flickr : www.flickr.com/photos/alyssafilmmaker/3250804881

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