According to experts, about 30% of people suffer from various sleep disorders. The most common problem is insomnia. Almost half of the adult population of the planet has encountered it at least once, and 10% of people have a chronic problem. But insomnia is only one of the possible sleep disorders. There are actually a lot more of them.
Sleep is one of the basic physiological needs of a person. The quality of a night’s rest largely depends on the functioning of the body, including hormonal balance, as well as the efficiency of the brain. There are different opinions about how much a person should sleep. According to the most common theory – 7-9 hours. If the quality or duration of a night’s rest deviates from the norm, they talk about sleep disorders. There are several classifications of sleep disorders. The most common one is described in ICD 10. In the classifier , sleep disorders are mentioned in two sections:
- G 47 are disorders caused by mental or physical disorders. This section includes insomnia, hypersomnia, sleep cycling disorder, apnea, narcolepsy and catalepsy, as well as some others;
- F 51 – this group includes disorders of an inorganic nature: inorganic insomnia and somnambulism, night terrors, nightmares.
In addition, sleep disorders are usually divided into primary and secondary. Primary ones are, as a rule, different types of dissomnia and parasomnia. Secondary disorders occur against the background of other mental or physical diseases, or are a consequence of previously taken chemicals (drugs, psychostimulants).
Dissomnia is manifested by disturbances in the duration or quality of sleep. If the sleep is too short, they talk about insomnia, if there is too much of it, about hypersomnia. In addition, the rest regime may also be disrupted: a person may be awake at night or feel very sleepy for days.
They talk about parasomnia when rest is disturbed by sleepwalking attacks, nightmares, if a person starts screaming, crying or waving his arms through a dream.
Characteristics of different types of sleep disorder
It is diagnosed if problems with falling asleep occur at least three times a week. If the situation repeats for more than a month, it is already chronic insomnia. The most common causes of insomnia are mental disorders (in 50-60 cases out of 100). Most often, problems with night rest occur in people with depression or increased anxiety. In addition, insomnia often develops against the background of restless legs syndrome.
If a person sleeps more than 9 hours a day, or feels sleepy during the day, despite a completely normal night’s rest, this is hypersomnia. This disorder, like the previous one, is also often found against the background of depressive states. In addition, hypersomnia can occur after an overdose of psychotropic drugs or alcohol.
The following symptoms are characteristic of this disorder: seizures of drowsiness during the day (a person can fall asleep in almost any situation, sometimes even during a conversation); catalepsy (sudden loss of muscle tone); hallucinations; sleepy stupor (a feeling of muscle paralysis with simultaneous preservation of consciousness, this condition may occur during falling asleep or waking up).
Violation of the rhythm of sleep and wakefulness
This violation occurs as a result of a malfunction in the operation of the internal biological clock of a person. The disorder consists in the lack of synchronization between night time and the rhythm of a certain person’s sleep. The reason for this condition may be frequent time zone changes or night shift work.
This is a condition in which a person can sit on the bed, get up, walk while sleeping. And all this happens without the participation of his consciousness. In the morning, sleepwalkers do not remember being awake at night.
A feeling of intense fear that interrupts sleep. It is often accompanied by crying, screaming, and sometimes hysterics. It often happens in children. As a rule, after waking up, a person cannot remember what he dreamed.
Very realistic dreams that cause fear in humans. Unlike the horrors, after waking up, a person remembers well what he saw in a dream. Often the cause of nightmares are childhood traumatic experiences or severe stress experienced already in adulthood.
Main causes of sleep disorders
In many cases, sleep disorders are a symptom of other mental or somatic disorders, for example, depression, drug addiction, stimulant use, metabolic or endocrine disorders (including hyperthyroidism), against the background of pain syndrome. Therefore, all patients with any sleep disorders are advised by doctors to undergo a comprehensive medical examination, which will help determine whether excessive drowsiness or lack of night sleep is a secondary disease.
There may also be a variety of reasons behind the primary sleep disorder. The most common are:
- Genetic disorders (in this case, sleep problems appear in childhood, sleep is sensitive, intermittent, short. With age, the symptoms increase even more and the disorder becomes chronic).
- Psychophysiological reasons (associated with difficult life situations that cause long-term stress, if a person’s mental state does not improve for a long time, sleep disorders develop into a chronic form).
- Improper lifestyle (non-compliance with a healthy lifestyle and bad habits can lead to the development of chronic disorders of night rest. People who wake up and fall asleep at different times every day, spend a long time in bed, for example, watching TV or reading, have a late dinner, spend a lot of time under artificial lighting, lead a sedentary lifestyle, rarely go outdoors, are especially susceptible to primary sleep disorders).
Causes of secondary insomnia
Insomnia can occur for various reasons. For example, if the bedroom is too cold or, conversely, very hot and stuffy. Problems with the quality of rest may arise due to an unsuitable bed or pillow, or may be associated with noise outside the wall or window. But often the causes of insomnia are much more serious.
If a person has problems with the work of the left ventricle, the quality of his sleep is disturbed. With such a disorder, the heart cannot pump the blood accumulated in the lungs with the necessary force. As a result, the patient experiences shortness of breath, which at night requires getting up and sitting for a while.
When atherosclerotic plaques are deposited on the walls of blood vessels, blood cannot circulate freely. As a result, a person has frequent headaches, dizziness, sometimes shortness of breath and sleep problems. In some people, blood pressure can rise so much that it causes difficulty falling asleep.
People with this chronic disease also often experience sleep disorders. With asthma, shortness of breath most often bothers at night, disrupting proper rest.
Increased thyroid activity can cause heart rate acceleration and anxiety, which also leads to insomnia.
Heartburn, as a rule, increases in the supine position. Sometimes severe heartburn is accompanied by a feeling of suffocation and coughing attacks, which does not contribute to rest at night.
Restless legs syndrome
According to experts, in almost 10 cases out of 100, the cause of insomnia is a disorder known in medicine as restless legs syndrome. This disorder is characterized by involuntary movements of the legs. Within an hour, the patient can make from 50 to several thousand foot movements. A person feels as if insects are crawling on his skin or the blood in the vessels flows unnaturally fast. It is also known that the symptoms of this disorder increase just at night. Unfortunately, there is still no effective medicine that would help to cope with the disease. Some patients are helped by warm compresses, others, exhausted by a sleepless night, still fall asleep in the morning. In particularly severe cases of the disease, doctors resort to potent sleeping pills.
Insomnia during pregnancy
Frequent toilet urges, baby pushes, uterine pressure on the diaphragm – all this explains why expectant mothers suffer from insomnia. To improve the quality of rest, in the evening you can do some relaxing exercises, take a warm bath with a few drops of lavender and be sure to ventilate the bedroom well.
Studies have shown that the duration of sleep phases depends on the hormonal background. In particular, female hormones estrogens are able to prolong the rem sleep phase, which ultimately affects the quality of rest. It is hormones that are considered the main culprits of insomnia in menopausal women. Taking hormones, among other things, will help to cope with the problem.
Medicinal products and stimulants
Some medications, such as antidepressants, glucocorticoids, oral contraceptives can affect the quality of a night’s rest. If a person has been taking sedatives for a long time, then after an abrupt end of the course or after an overdose of sedatives, problems with falling asleep may begin. In addition, pills designed to suppress appetite can also cause insomnia. The cause of insomnia may also be some drinks drunk in the evening. First of all, we are talking about black coffee, strong tea and energy cocktails.
Diagnosis and treatment
Regardless of whether the sleep disorder is a primary or secondary disorder, it is important to determine the cause that caused the sleep problem. In this case, the diagnosis consists of several stages.
The doctor may suggest that the patient undergo polysomnography. During the examination, oxygen levels, body movements and brain waves are assessed, which could affect the quality of sleep.
Another test is an electroencephalogram. During the diagnosis, the activity of the brain is studied, in particular, the impulses sent by it. Any deviations from the norm are regarded as a potential cause of violations of night rest.
Also, in some cases, it is impossible to do without genetic study. Tests from this group will help determine whether the disorder is hereditary.
Treatment, first of all, depends on the type and cause of sleep disorders. Most often, patients with insomnia are prescribed sleeping pills or supplements of melatonin (the hormone responsible for the quality of sleep), walking in the fresh air, moderate physical activity and are advised to avoid stressful situations. It is useful for people suffering from night rest disorders to reconsider their diet: reduce the amount of sugar in the diet and increase portions of vegetables and fish. Also, in order to avoid sleep disorders, you should not drink caffeinated drinks in the evening. And in general, excessive consumption of any liquid in the evening is also undesirable.
In some cases, surgical intervention may be necessary to treat sleep disorders. For example, if the disorder is secondary and caused by apnea. But such radical methods are relatively rarely resorted to. According to experts, in most cases the problem is solved quite simply: it is enough for the patient to adjust his regime – go to bed and get up at the same time every day.