Sleep Disorder. A Growing Concern - Health Care Department California

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Sleep Disorder
A Growing Concern in the United States

In the United States alone, it is estimated that approximately 60 - 80 million people have some form of sleep disorder.

This number continues to rise. Several of the reasons for the increasing numbers are the aging of the American population, the change in our lifestyle and the obesity epidemic. Of course there are other  factors that can lead to a sleep disorder, such as, stress, shift work, illness or genetics.

There are more than 100 different types of sleep disorders. They range in severity from minor to life threatening.

People of any age, from infants to the aged, can be affected by a sleep disorder at any time of their lives.

As sleep disorders increase in the United States, so do the dangers that are associated with them.
Tiredness can lead to slower mental alertness and a slower reaction time. This can be a very dangerous combination. Between 20 - 25% of all serious vehicular accidents involve a tired driver. Many of these drivers suffer from some form of sleep disorder and may not even be aware of it.

sleep disorders in the United StatesA large number of accidents that occur at home or at work are also due to people with some type of sleeping problem. Sleep disorder, combined with the cost of the accidents and illnesses it causes, results in the American people and the government spending billions of dollars.

Lack of sleep is directly related to many physical ailments and conditions. People that do not get sufficient sleep generally suffer more form headaches, sore joints and stomach problems. Often a sleep disorder is an underlying cause of heart problems, lung conditions and diabetes.

Sleep disorders can also affect the mental well being of people stricken with them. Mood changes, anxiety, eating disorders and depression can result.

Many people still do not think of a sleeping problem as a medical problem. Because of this, many never tell their physician that they are having a problem with sleep. Even if they see their doctor on a regular basis for an illness or condition, they never mention their difficulty sleeping.

As the American public and medical community become more educated and aware of the symptoms, effects and severity of various sleep disorders, more and more cases are being diagnosed. Sufferers are being treated with medication, oxygen,  cpap machines and even surgery.  There are better screening methods and diagnostic tests which find sleep disorder problems earlier. Overnight sleep centers no longer resemble a hospital room. They are now designed to look more like a hotel room, to make the patient feel more comfortable. In some cases, due to computerization and miniaturization, equipment can be so small that some testing can even be done at home.

Sleep is not an option or a luxury. It is a basic element of living and of good health. If you think you, your partner or your child may be suffering from a sleep disorder see your physician. A sleep disorder is a medical problem that can be helped.


Illnesses That Can Cause a Sleep Disorder
Something you need to know

Many times a sleep disorder can be caused from an illness. Some of the common health conditions that can cause a sleeping problem are cardiovascular disease, endocrine disorders, neurological disorders, respiratory disease, mental illness, gastroesophageal reflux disease, kidney disease, and arthritis.

Illnesses That Can Cause a Sleep DisorderCardiovascular disease includes congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease. These  are the two most common heart problems that affect sleep and can cause a sleep disorder. Congestive heart failure occurs when the heart can no longer pump enough blood fo the body's needs. Blood backs up in the veins of the heart which lead to the kidneys and edema eventually damages the lungs and other organs.

People suffering from congestive heart failure have a very high risk of developing the sleep disorder of obstructive sleep apnea. Coronary heart disease is the build up of fatty deposits in the arteries that supply blood to the heart, called atherosclerosis. This condition also can lead to obstructive sleep apnea.

Sleep disorders can occur from endocrine disorders such as diabetes and thyroid disease. Diabetes is a disease that affects the way the body processes and uses carbohydrates, fats and proteins. People that have uncontrolled diabetes often develop the sleep disorder of restless leg syndrome. Thyroid hormones regulate the body's energy levels. Hyperthyroidism can make it difficult to fall asleep, and cause night sweats the person to wake.

Neurological disorders include Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy, and strokes.

Parkinson's disease is a central nervous system disorder. This disease causes problems with body motion, including tremors, unstable posture, slowed body movements, muscle stiffness, and difficulty walking. Sleep disorders that occur with this disease include REM sleep behavior disorder and sleep onset insomnia. Alzheimer's disease impairs the brain's intellectual functions and is the most common cause of dementia. This disease causes sleep fragmentation.

Epilepsy causes recurrent, sudden, brief changes in the normal electrical activity of the brain. People with this condition are twice as likely to suffer from the sleep disorder insomnia. People that suffer a stroke usually also have obstructive sleep apnea.

People that have respiratory diseases, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,
usually also have a sleep disorder.

Asthma is a chronic lung condition that makes breathing difficult when air passages become inflamed and narrow. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, known as COPD, refers to a group of disorders that damage the lungs and make breathing difficult. Many people with these conditions suffer from insomnia and sleep fragmentation.

Mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and seasonal affective disorder can also lead to a sleep disorder. People with these mental health disorders often suffer from sleep fragmentation and insomnia.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease, known as GERD, causes the stomach's juices to flow backwards into the esophagus.
This causes the sleep disorder of sleep fragmentation.

Kidney disease causes the kidneys to lose their ability to filter the proper amount of waste products from the blood and regulate the body's balance of salt and water.

This can cause the sleep disorders of restless leg syndrome and insomnia to develop.

People with arthritis often find it difficult to fall asleep because of the pain. This often results in insomnia.

If an illness causes a sleep disorder to develop, the sleep disorder is secondary to the illness.

Successful treatment of the primary underlying cause will usually diminish the effects of the sleep disorder.

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How to Tell If You Have a Sleep Disorder
Are you inside this viral problem?

There are many people that have an undiagnosed sleep disorder. They may feel very sleepy during the day. They may have trouble falling to sleep or staying asleep. Friends or relatives may tell them they look very tired.

They may experience mood changes, irritability or become overly emotional. Often they have difficulty paying attention, concentrating, or remembering things that are important.

These are all symptoms of sleep deprivation, and possibly of a sleep disorder.

A person that has an undiagnosed sleep disorder will usually answer the question, "What is the problem with your sleep," with one of five answers.

Those answers will be; "I have trouble falling asleep," " I have trouble staying awake," "I can't get up in the morning," "I seem to do strange things in my sleep" or  "I can't sleep because of my partner."

The particular answer chosen helps to narrow down the possibility of a specific type of sleep disorder.

not being able to fall asleepWhen someone says "I can't fall asleep" it can mean several things.

There could be a problem when first going to bed, after waking up in the middle of the night, or in the early morning hours.

Many people have the problem of not being able to fall asleep when they go to bed. This is called sleep latency.

*Sleep latency can be a very serious symptom of certain sleep disorders, including sleep onset insomnia, delayed sleep phase disorder, shift work, restless leg syndrome or paradoxical insomnia.


Many times the problem is not being able to stay asleep, which is sleep fragmentation.  Often a person with this complaint can fall to sleep easily when they go to bed, but wake up often throughout the night.

Sleep disorders may include sleep maintenance insomnia,  shift work. If a person wakes up very early in the morning and cannot get back to sleep, it could be a sign of advanced sleep phase disorder or sleep maintenance insomnia.

If the answer to the question is "I can't stay awake" and the person is falling asleep at inappropriate times there may be a  sleep disorder such as narcolepsy , obstructive or central sleep apnea, periodic limb movement disorder, restless leg syndrome, shift work or advanced sleep phase disorder.
Those that say "I can't get up in the morning" and take an hour or more to fully wake from their sleep may suffer from excessive sleep inertia.

They are having difficulty making the transition from sleep to being awake.

Sleep disorders that could be responsible for excessive sleep inertia  are sleep apnea and delayed sleep phase disorder.

A person that answers the question with "I do strange things in my sleep" may find that their sleep is full of surprises. Sleepwalking, Sleep terrors, confusional arousals, REM sleep behavior disorder, nightmares, sleep-related eating disorder and bruxism are all types of sleep disorders known as parasomnias.

If a person answers "I can't sleep because of my partner" snoring, sleep apnea, bruxism, restless leg syndrome, or periodic limb movement disorder may be the sleep disorder to blame.

How would you answer the question of "What is the problem with your sleep?"

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