Friday, April 20, 2012

Sleep Disorders

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Sleep is an essential part of human existence. We spend approximately one-third of our lives engaged in sleep. It is extremely important to our mental, physical and emotional well being. However, according a study done by CNN Health, “a growing collection of research indicates that Americas sleep problems have reached epidemic proportions, and may be the countrys number-one health problem” resulting in about 70 million American’s that suffer from some type of sleep disturbance. Among the most common sleep disorders are Obstructive Sleep Apnea , Narcolepsy, and Insomnia.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) affects more then twelve million Americans. It is considered the most common and as well as the most serious sleep disorder. OSA is most common among overweight males over the age of forty, though it can affect both males and females of all ages and of ideal weight. Those with OSA literally stop breathing frequently during their sleep, often for a minute or longer and as many as hundreds of times during a single night.

The site of obstruction in most patients is the soft palate, extending to the region at the base of the tongue. Because there are no rigid structures, such as bone, to hold the airway open, the muscles in this area work to keep the passage open. However, when a person with OSA falls asleep, these muscles begin to loosen up, the airway collapses and eventually becomes obstructed. When the airway closes, breathing stops and the person sleeping awakens to open the airway. Once normal breathing is restored, the person falls asleep only to repeat the cycle during the night.

Insomnia is the most common complaint among adults. According to a 00 National Sleep Foundation survey, 58 percent of adults are affected a few or more nights a week, with symptoms of insomnia such as waking up often during the night and having trouble going back to sleep. Insomnia is not defined exclusively on the amount of sleep a person acquires because the amount of sleep a person needs in order to feel refreshed fluctuates. Instead, a person experiences insomnia when they repeatedly complain about the eminence and duration of their sleep, have difficulty going to sleep or staying asleep, or often wake up too early in the morning. Stressful life events can be traced to insomnia, such as troubled relationships, death of a loved one or difficulty at work or school.

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A successful treatment for insomnia is educating people on good quality sleep hygiene. For example, many people use sleeping pills or alcohol as a way to decrease anxiety, allowing them to sleep more comfortably. Although these solutions may temporarily help people fall asleep, both the sleeping pill and alcohol disrupt normal sleep cycles.

Unlike, OSA and insomnia, narcolepsy is a chronic neurological disorder distinguished by excessive daytime sleepiness. One of the most common symptoms is brief lapses of sleep throughout the day that generally lasts for less than an hour. Narcoleptics also experience abrupt “sleep attacks” that persist for several minutes. The sleep attacks can be triggered by anger, laughter, shock, and other forms of arousal, including sexual arousal. During these sleep attacks, their muscles go limp causing them to collapse.

Narcolepsy affects approximately 5 in every 100,000 people in the United States. It usually occurs during adolescence and is considered a chronic, enduring condition. Although the cause is still unknown. researchers believe that genetics play an important role, as the disorder tends to run in families. Many sleep researchers are hopeful to discover new understandings of narcolepsy in humans, as well as new treatments for this incapacitating sleep disorder.

Sleep disorders are vastly universal among humans. Their causes vary. Some, such as OSA, occurs when the airway closes, disallowing the person to breathe properly. The breathing stops and the person sleeping awakens to open the airway. When normal breathing is restored, the person falls asleep only to repeat the cycle once again. Others like narcolepsy, that strictly occur during the day, sends a person through brief lapses of sleep. It is a chronic disorder that occurs during adolescence.

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