• Health

    About Sleep & Insomnia

    A sleep disorder is a disruptive pattern of sleep that may include difficulty falling or staying asleep, falling asleep at inappropriate times, excessive total sleep time, or abnormal behaviors associated with sleep.

    More than 100 different disorders of sleeping and waking have been identified. They can be grouped within 4 main categories: problems with staying and falling asleep, problems with staying awake, problems with adhering to a regular sleep schedule, and sleep disruptive behaviors.

    Abnormal behaviors during sleep are called parasomnias, and are fairly common in children. They include:

    • Sleep terror disorder
    • Sleep walking

    REM behavior disorder (a type of psychosis can develop related to lack of REM sleep and lack of dreaming)
    Sleep terror disorder is an abrupt awakening from sleep with fear, sweating, rapid heart rate, and confusion. Sleep walking is not remembered by the person doing it and affects children 2 to 12 years old. In adults, it may also be caused by an organic brain syndrome, reactions to drugs, psychopathology and medical conditions.


    • Awakening in the night
    • Difficulty falling asleep
    • Excessive daytime drowsiness
    • Loud snoring
    • Episodes of stopped breathing
    • Sleep attacks during the day
    • Daytime fatigue
    • Depressed mood
    • Anxiety
    • Difficulty concentrating
    • Apathy
    • Irritability
    • Loss of memory (or complaints of decreased memory)
    • Lower leg movements during sleep

    Note: The symptoms may vary with the particular disorder.

    • Signs and tests
    • Multiple sleep latency test
    • Polysomnography
    • Treatment

    Insomnia – The treatment is related to the cause, if it is determined. If there is an obvious physical or psychological cause, it is treated. Attempts to control environmental and lifestyle factors such as too much light, noise, caffeine or other stimulants, or erratic hours of wakefulness should be made. Sleeping drugs should be used only when prescribed by a health care provider.

    Hypersomnia – Sleep apnea is treated with weight reduction and the administration of air under pressure through the nose. Occasionally, surgery or other measures may be needed. Narcolepsy is treated with stimulating medications during the daytime. Restless leg syndrome is treated by treating the underlying disorder and with opiate or dopaminergic agonists.

    Parasomnias – Night terrors are treated with hypnosis, guided imagery techniques and benzodiazepines, but safety measures are needed to prevent people from harm during nighttime walking.

    * Excerpts compiled from A.D.A.M., Inc.