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Sleep and sleep disorders
Getting enough sleep is important. It affects your physical and mental health.
Too little sleep (even 1 hour too little each night) can create a "sleep debt." If the debt becomes too great, problems may result.
Too little sleep can lower your performance, concentration and reaction time. Too little sleep can cause:
- accidents and injuries
- behavior problems
- physical problems
- mood changes
- memory lapses.
If you feel drowsy during the day or if you fall asleep within 5 minutes of lying down, you may not be getting enough sleep.
Causes of sleep disorders
Common causes of sleep disorders include:
- use of caffeine, decongestants or other stimulants
- alcohol use
- not taking the time to sleep
- poor sleep hygiene.
Although there are more than 80 types of sleep disorders, the most common include: sleep apnea, insomnia, restless leg syndrome, periodic limb movement disorder and narcolepsy.
Did you know?
- Some 100 million Americans do not get a good night's sleep.
- About 40 million Americans suffer from long-term (chronic) disorders of sleep and wakefulness. Another 20 million Americans have sleeping disorders once in a while.
- As you age, you sleep more lightly and for shorter amounts of time. About half of all people older than age 65 have sleeping problems.
Restless leg syndrome (RLS)
Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a disorder that causes you to have unpleasant feelings in your legs. You may feel sensations such as creeping, itching, crawling or pulling. These sensations can be painful and often occur in the evening when you are lying down.
RLS may affect one or both legs and it may affect your arms as well. The sensations are worse when you lie or sit for long stretches of time. This includes sitting at a desk or in a car, or lying down.
Usually, the symptoms go away when you walk, exercise, stretch or rub your legs. Symptoms get worse when you are relaxed. You may have problems falling asleep. Once you do, you probably sleep better at the end of the night or in the morning. As a result, you feel sleepy during the day.
Apnea is a Greek word meaning "want of breath." Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder in which you stop breathing while asleep. Your airway narrows or collapses during breathing, blocking air flow. When this happens, your lungs can't take in oxygen or breathe out carbon dioxide. This can last 10 seconds or longer.
Your brain responds to the falling oxygen levels by waking you enough to tighten the upper airway muscles and open your airway. You may snort or gasp and continue trying to breathe. This can happen more than 100 times per hour each night.
There are two types of sleep apnea:
- Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when air cannot flow into or out of your nose or mouth. This is the most common type of sleep apnea.
- Central sleep apnea occurs when the brain doesn't send the right signals to your breathing muscles.
If you need a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine to help you sleep well, we'll not only deliver the equipment you need, we'll show you how to use and maintain it.
Snoring is caused by a vibration of tissues in your throat from air passing through as you breath in. This occurs because the airway is not fully open, and air is forced through a narrow passage. This causes a blockage of the airway. The tissues then vibrate, making a snoring sound.
The loudness of the snore is affected by how much air is going through the passage. The smaller the passage is, the harder it is to breath in air, and the snoring becomes louder.
About 10 to 30 percent of all adults snore. Most people do not have a medical condition causing their snoring. However, about five out of 100 people could possibly have a life threatening disorder called obstructive sleep apnea (your breathing stops or gets very shallow while you are sleeping).
Warning: Sleep apnea
Excessive snoring can be a sign of obstructive sleep apnea. A specialist can tell if you have this condition by doing a sleep study.