Sleep Disorders: Top 4 That Make 70 Million Suffer

sleep disorders

Sleep disorders are conditions which prohibit a person from getting restful sleep. As many as 70 million people suffer from some form of sleep disorder. Sleep disorders can produce debilitating daytime sleepiness and affect the quality of life for many. There are roughly 80 different kinds of sleep disorders. Here is a list of the Top 4 most common sleep disorders.

  1. Insomnia: according to sleep experts insomnia is by far the most common sleep disorder, affecting upwards of 60 percent of the general population. Symptoms of insomnia include difficulty falling asleep, waking up too early and/or having difficulty staying asleep. Other symptoms include failing to have rejuvenating sleep and difficulty with fatigue during the day, as well as severe mood swings and trouble concentrating. Insomnia can be the result of an underlying medical condition, psychiatric problems, or stress. Insomnia is considered chronic when it occurs more than three times a week, for a month or longer.
  2. Sleep Apnea: the second most common sleep disorder, experts consider sleep apnea to be a potentially dangerous condition. It occurs during sleep when breathing is interrupted regularly. There are 2 kinds of sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the more common and occurs when the airway is blocked, usually as a result of the soft tissue in the back of the throat collapsing during sleep. Central sleep apnea (CSA) does not occur as the result of any type of blockage, but rather when the brain does not tell the body to breathe. Sufferers of this type of sleep apnea may awake gasping for air during the night or have recurring awakening throughout the night.
  3. Night Terrors and Sleepwalking: night terrors are typically experienced by children usually between the ages of 2 and 6 but may also be experienced by adults. Night terrors can last for as little as 1 minute and up to 30 minutes. They can appear to be a nightmare but present themselves in a more dramatic fashion according to sleep experts. Night terrors will occur during non-REM sleep whereas nightmares happen during REM sleep. Unlike nightmares, night terrors are usually not remembered.
  4. Narcolepsy: of the Top 4 sleeping disorders making 70 million people suffer, the strangest might be narcolepsy. This  is a sleep and brain disorder causing extreme sleepiness and an irresistible urge to sleep during normal daytime hours. The sleep attacks come suddenly without warning and can last from seconds to several minutes. Narcolepsy affects daily life as a result of the sudden onslaught of sleepiness which may occur at work, during conversations, driving, eating, or almost anywhere at any time. Unfortunately narcolepsy is a life long condition.  Sleepwalking is exactly what the name suggests, walking during sleep while performing normal daily activities. Sleepwalking most often occurs during stages of deep sleep. Often the eyes are open with a glassy appearance and behavior may include anything from roaming around a room to excited running to and fro. Underlying factors of sleepwalking can be stress, genetics, medical conditions and even environmental impacts.

Until recently sleep was considered to be a latent and passive part of life.  However scientists have discovered the brain is active during sleep. Neurotransmitters, chemicals which send signals to the brain, are responsible for whether you are asleep or awake, by acting on certain groups of nerve cells or neurons. The important thing to remember, experts say, is that sleep is as important as nutrition. The Top 4 sleep disorders, and all the sleeping disorders that make as many as 70 million people suffer, can be resolved if people pay as much attention to having a good night’s sleep as they do to having enough to eat. If you suffer from any of these disorders it is important to seek treatment and to know there is help. Remember the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Finish each day before you begin the next and interpose a solid wall of sleep between the two”.

By Wendy Waring


6 Responses to "Sleep Disorders: Top 4 That Make 70 Million Suffer"

  1. Kim Mackie   February 6, 2014 at 9:41 am

    “The Top 4 sleep disorders, and all the sleeping disorders that make as many as 70 million people suffer, can be resolved if people pay as much attention to having a good night’s sleep as they do to having enough to eat”. This couldn’t be further from the truth when it comes to narcolepsy.

    We get sleep, usually more than the average 6-8 hours a night. However we do not get the restorative sleep like a person without narcolepsy. I am unfortunately one of those that do fall asleep while having a conversation, eating, driving, etc. It is one of the most devastating symptom of N that I have. I also can have conversations while asleep, it’s called automatic behavior. Many PWN, people with narcolepsy, have automatic behavior. This is when we do things while in a sleep stage. It’s usually things that we do as a routine and therefore doing them in our sleep is just automatic. I cleaned, rearranged my whole living room, fixed supper and did the dishes one night. Three hours later I “came too” and freaked out because I didn’t remember doing any of it. This was a before being diagnosed.

    While you have several points about N correct there is quite a bit that isn’t and much more to N than just the basics you wrote. I am appreciative that you did include it in your story. Narcolepsy is so misunderstood, even doctors don’t know how to diagnose it. They usually say we are just depressed. Thank You

  2. Rainbow   February 6, 2014 at 7:16 am

    Another misconception to correct is that the cataplexy, the sudden involuntary loss of muscle control, is a distinct symptom of Narcolepsy, separate from the extreme sleepiness. The main problem of narcolepsy is that REM intrudes into our waking life (cataplexy) causing loss of muscle control when we let our guard down to laugh or if we are startled, etc just the same way anyone is paralysed so one doesn’t act out their dreams. The REM intrudes into the deep sleep as well so we are sleep deprived in spite of appearing to sleep 8 hours a night. We also have insomnia as dreams wake us up. This sleep deprivation causes us to be very sleepy during the day, not unlike anyone else who is sleep deprived, we have “sleep attacks” which are irresistible urges to sleep. We won’t fall asleep in our soup. I can and will push the soup bowl away to take a nap!

  3. Karen Klauss   February 5, 2014 at 4:14 pm

    Thank you so much for helping shed some light (“Close the curtains, I’m trying to sleep!…my narcolepsy humor)…on narcolepsy, but I beg to differ on the conception about people with narcolepsy are just dropping off to sleep. It is more like extreme sleepiness. Picture yourself when you are sitting at your desk after you just ate lunch. Also, you slept one hour the night before and yesterday you spent eight hours on a plane next to a crying baby. You wouldn’t fall face forward into your keyboard, but you would walk out to your car to take a nap. And it would be difficult to wake up from that nap.
    That’s what being extremely sleepy feels like. But we dont just face plant into our keyboards either. We take medicine everyday. We go to bed really early. We miss out on activities that we really wanted to do, but we can’t, because we feel like that exhausted worker I described, but we had a “normal” night’s sleep. By the way, most of us have a “normal” night’s sleep. Another thing that is misunderstood is that if we are so sleepy, then why do we have such a hard time sleeping all night?

  4. Min Lacey   February 5, 2014 at 2:53 pm

    It is nice to see an article about narcolepsy, unfortunately it perpetuates the myth that people with narcolepsy fall asleep all the time with no warning. Until people understand that this is *not* the case with all people with narcolepsy, we will always have to face prejudice, people believing we party too hard or are just plain lazy. You also do not mention cataplexy at all, which to me is the most debilitating and worst side-effect of narcolepsy. Not even my doctor knew what it was, so it would be nice if it was better understood. Please note – not all narcoleptics have cataplexy – in fact, there is a whole spectrum that comes under the diagnosis, which is why repeating narcolepsy=suddenly falling asleep/down is not helpful. I am not sure why ‘sleepwalking’ is included?

  5. Tam Kozman   February 5, 2014 at 10:25 am

    Thank you for the mention of narcolepsy – the more we raise awareness, the more we facilitate early diagnosis and access to treatment, which can greatly improve quality of life.

    However, I would like to respectfully suggest that some of the information here is mistaken. First of all, narcolepsy is as a neurological condition, not a ‘sleep and brain disorder.’

    Secondly, the statement “The sleep attacks come suddenly without warning…” is simply NOT true for most people with narcolepsy; rather, we are aware of irresistible sleepiness, similar to what a ‘normal’ person would feel after 48-72 hours without sleep. For most of us it is simply not the case that we fall asleep in the middle of activities like “…work, during conversations, driving, eating, or almost any where at any time.”

    In addition, 60% or more of people with narcolepsy suffer from ‘cataplexy,’ characterized as a sudden loss of muscle tone, often triggered by a strong emotional response, usually laughter. This sudden paralysis can be as subtle as a sagging jaw with slurred speech or as dramatic as a full body collapse. During a cataplexy attack, a person is fully awake and alert. Other symptoms of narcolepsy include sleep paralysis, hypnagogic hallucinations, and automatic behavior.

    Finally, I believe a paragraph on ‘sleepwalking’ was inadvertently included in the segment about narcolepsy.

    Again, thank you for your coverage of this complex, lifelong, often debilitating disorder!

    Tam Kozman
    Executive Director,
    Narcolepsy Support Group of San Diego County

    • Tam Kozman   February 5, 2014 at 11:22 am

      Also, “…all the sleeping disorders that make as many as 70 million people suffer, can be resolved if people pay as much attention to having a good night’s sleep as they do to having enough to eat” is simply untrue. Narcolepsy is caused by an autoimmune response that destroys certain neurons in the hypothalamus that produce orexin, a neuroprotein responsible for regulating the sleep/wake cycle (among MANY other physiologic functions). A ‘good night’s sleep’ is not going to undo that damage, and furthermore is patently impossible for an untreated person with narcolepsy; fragmented nighttime sleep is itself a symptom of narcolepsy.

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