Many sleep disorders go unnoticed because the symptoms are common and seemingly harmless. The sleep disorders most frequently recognized and treated in sleep centers include:
Snoring and Sleep Apnea
Snoring can be more than an annoying habit; it can also be a sign of sleep apnea. People with sleep apnea actually stop breathing periodically during sleep for as long as 90 seconds. Breathing may stop up to several hundred times a night.
Other symptoms of sleep apnea are heavy snoring, excessive daytime sleepiness and fatigue, restless sleep, nighttime panic/smothering attacks, personality changes, irritability, impotency and morning headaches.
This sleep disorder can contribute to high blood pressure and can be life threatening.
Hypersomnolence (or hypersomnia) is excessive daytime sleepiness, occurring even after what seems to be a full night's sleep. People with this problem are not as alert as they should be during the day; they may fall asleep at inappropriate times. Sometimes, daytime sleepiness can be caused simply by stress or by changes in normal daily activities; that's only normal. If, however, daytime sleepiness persists for a continued period of time, medical help is needed.
Narcolepsy is a disorder in which people, during their normal waking hours, experience irresistible sleepiness or fall into a deep and instant sleep; these periods usually last 10—15 minutes and often occur at quite embarrassing times.
Narcoleptics may actually begin to dream while still awake and also suffer sleep paralysis, which leaves them unable to move. Loss of muscle tone while awake (usually associated with an outburst of strong emotion such as laughter or anger) is also a frequent occurrence for some narcoleptics. Treatment for narcolepsy is usually quite successful.
Restlessness describes the body's inability to lie peacefully in uninterrupted sleep. Causes may be stress-related or physiological such as sleep apnea or muscle spasms. In extreme cases of restlessness, patients may actually fall out of bed. Whatever the cause, chronic restlessness, like insomnia, keeps the body from moving through the normal stages of sleep. Often, people suffering from restlessness experience drowsiness during the day.
For some people, sleep/wake problems are not caused by an inability to sleep but by the timing of that sleep or by disturbances during sleep. Two common examples are individuals suffering from jet lag and those working alternating shifts.
Many times, shift workers attempt to revert to a "normal" schedule during their days off. They fall into a cycle of trying to sleep before they are ready, and conversely, staying awake when they are truly ready for sleep. These types of sleep problems in shift workers often result in decreased productivity and increased chance of error on the job.