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Types of Sleep Disorders

Some of the most commonly diagnosed and treated sleep disorders are sleep apnea, insomnia, excessive snoring, restless leg syndrome and narcolepsy.

Sleep apnea is characterized by frequent brief stops in breathing or shallow breathing during sleep. These interruptions are caused by partial or complete collapse of the soft tissue in the throat, which closes the airway. Pauses in breathing can occur hundreds of time each night.

When your breathing stops, the oxygen in your blood decreases, causing your brain to respond by waking you enough to open your windpipe. Normal breaths begin again, often with a loud snort or choking sound. People who have sleep apnea typically snore loudly, although not everyone who snores has sleep apnea.

With constant waking, individuals with sleep apnea rarely spend enough time in deep, quality sleep throughout the night. As a result, they experience extreme drowsiness during the day.

If untreated, sleep apnea can increase risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack and stroke, as well as fatigue-related accidents. It can greatly affect your quality of life.

Sleep apnea can be treated in numerous ways, including:

  • Weight loss
  • Sleeping in more effective positions
  • Quitting smoking
  • Avoiding alcohol and sedatives
  • Using oral appliances
  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP)/Bilevel Positive Airway Pressure (BiPAP)
  • Surgery

Learn more about sleep apnea in our online Health Library.

If you suspect you may experience sleep apnea, contact your primary care physician to find out if you would benefit from a sleep study at Portsmouth Regional Hospital.

Insomnia, by definition, means having difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or getting quality sleep.

Temporary insomnia is common, triggered by stress at work, family pressures, a traumatic event or other life conditions. Chronic insomnia is different. Defined as having difficulty sleeping at least three nights per week for more than a month, chronic insomnia is often linked to stress, depression or anxiety. There can also be physical causes, such as chronic pain or other sleep disorders.

Insomnia can cause problems during the day, including extreme sleepiness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, depression and irritability. Left untreated, insomnia can significantly affect your quality of life.

The good news is there are many treatment options, depending on the underlying source of the sleep problems. If you experience frequent insomnia or have had difficulty sleeping for more than four weeks, contact your primary care physician.

Learn more about insomnia in our online Health Library.

When air can't move easily through your mouth, nose and throat, it results in the noisy breathing known as snoring. If you snore excessively, however, your sleep is likely being interrupted throughout the night�whether or not you're aware of it. You may feel exhausted during the day, even after napping.

If you have concerns about your snoring, talk to your primary care physician. You may benefit from a physical exam of your throat, neck, mouth and nose or from a sleep study in our Sleep Diagnostic Center. Treatment for severe snoring, which can be related to sleep apnea, may include lifestyle changes, devices that help open the airway or surgery.

Learn more about excessive snoring in our online Health Library.

Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is characterized by an unpleasant prickling or tingling sensation in the legs accompanied by an irresistible urge to move them. Symptoms are worse for individuals when they're resting (typically in the evening or at night) and are relieved by movement or massage. It's difficult for individuals with RLS to fall asleep or stay asleep.

Many people with RLS may also have brief limb movements while they sleep, often occurring every 30 seconds for periods of up to an hour or more, several times a night. These periodic limb movements in sleep (PLMS) can wake the individual, affecting total sleep time.

Learn more about restless leg syndrome in our online Health Library.

If you suspect you have restless leg syndrome, contact your primary care physician to find out if you would benefit from a sleep study at Portsmouth Regional Hospital.

Extreme daytime sleepiness, even after adequate nighttime sleep, is the main symptom of narcolepsy. Individuals with narcolepsy experience uncontrollable attacks of daytime sleep that can last from seconds to more than half an hour. These incidents can occur without warning and may even cause injury. For individuals with narcolepsy, nighttime sleep is also often interrupted with frequent awakenings.

Learn more about narcolepsy in our online Health Library.

If you suspect you may have narcolepsy, contact your primary care physician to find out if you would benefit from a sleep study at Portsmouth Regional Hospital.