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Sleep Disorders: What You Need to Know

By Griffin Hospital on 5/18/2016

The amount of sleep a person needs depends on many factors, including age. For example, infants usually need about 16 hours of sleep a day, while teenagers need about nine hours on average. For most adults, seven to eight hours per night is recommended, although some people may need as few as five hours or as many as 10 hours of sleep each day. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 50-70 million US adults have sleep or wakefulness disorder. There are a variety of things that can contribute to sleep problems, and snoring or daytime sleepiness may indicate a serious medical disorder.

Sleep disorders range from mild to more severe. Inadequate sleep may be caused by broad scale societal factors such as round-the-clock access to technology and work schedules, but sleep issues can also be caused by such as insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea.

Sleepiness isn’t the only concern. People who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to suffer from chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, depression, sexual dysfunction and obesity, as well as reduced quality of life and productivity.

Here are some common sleep disorders. If you think you might suffer from one or more of these, please contact The Sleep Wellness Center at Griffin Hospital at 203-732-7571, or speak with your physician to make arrangements for you to be evaluated.

  • Circadian Rhythm Disorders: Typically, people sleep at night, but this natural “sleep shift” can be disrupted by circadian rhythm disorders, including jet lag, adjustments to shift work, delayed sleep phase syndrome (you fall asleep and wake up too late), and advanced sleep phase syndrome (you fall asleep and wake up too early).
  • Sleep Apnea: Sleep apnea occurs when the upper airway becomes completely or partially blocked, interrupting regular breathing for short periods of time -- which then wakes you up. It can cause severe daytime sleepiness. If left untreated, severe sleep apnea may be associated with high blood pressure and the risk of stroke and heart attack.
  • Insomnia: People who have insomnia don't feel as if they get enough sleep at night. They may have trouble falling asleep or may wake up frequently during the night or early in the morning. Insomnia is a problem if it affects your daytime activities. Insomnia has many possible causes, including stress, anxiety, depression, poor sleep habits, circadian rhythm disorders (such as jet lag), and taking certain medications.
  • Snoring: Many adults snore. The noise is produced when the air you inhale rattles over the relaxed tissues of the throat. Snoring can be a problem simply because of the noise it causes, but it may also be a sign of sleep apnea.
  • Narcolepsy: Narcolepsy is a brain disorder that causes excessive daytime sleepiness. It may be genetic, but most patients have no family history of the problem. Though dramatic and uncontrolled "sleep attacks" have been the best-known feature of narcolepsy, in reality many patients do not have sleep attacks. Instead, they experience constant sleepiness during the day.
  • Restless Legs Syndrome: People with Restless Leg Syndrome experience discomfort in the legs and feet peaks during the evening and night. They feel an urge to move their legs and feet to get temporary relief, often with excessive, rhythmic, or cyclic leg movements during sleep. This can delay sleep onset and cause brief awakening during sleep. Restless leg syndrome is a common problem among middle-aged and older adults.
  • Nightmares: Nightmares are frightening dreams that arise during sleep. They can be caused by stress, anxiety, and some medications. Often, there is no clear cause.
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