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Stages of Sleep

Most contemporary sleep experts divide the sleep-wake cycle into four stages. The first three are considered non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, and the fourth...
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Sleep Disorders

Sleep disorders are a broad category of medical conditions that negatively affect sleep. Understanding sleep disorders can help people minimize the consequences of poor sleep, which can include diminished quality of life and an increased risk of developing health issues. We discuss the many types of sleep disorders, including their symptoms and causes.

What Is a Sleep Disorder?

Sleep disorders are conditions that disrupt healthy sleep and also cause daytime symptoms. Sleep disorders can affect when you are able to fall asleep, how much sleep you get, and the quality of your sleep. Divided into seven categories. These main categories include:

  • Insomnia
  • Sleep-related breathing disorders
  • Circadian rhythm sleep-wake disorders
  • Central disorders of hypersomnolence
  • Parasomnias
  • Sleep-related movement disorders
  • Other sleep disorders

What Causes Sleep Disorders?

While in some cases the cause of a sleep disorder is clear, often the development of a sleep disorder is influenced by a combination of risk factors. In other cases, the cause of a sleep disorder may be unknown.

Factors that increase the risk of certain sleep disorders include:

  • Underlying medical conditions
  • Mental health conditions
  • Medications or other substances
  • Genetics
  • Environmental stressors

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What Are the Symptoms of a Sleep Disorder?

There is a wide range of symptoms among sleep disorders. They vary from one disorder to the next, and two people with the same sleep disorder may experience different symptoms. Common symptoms of sleep disorders include:

  • Trouble falling asleep
  • Waking up often during the night
  • Sleeping at inappropriate times
  • Daytime fatigue or sleepiness
  • Changes in mood, attention, motivation, or concentration
  • Accidents and mistakes
  • Snoring, gasping for breath, or pauses in breathing during sleep
  • Auditory, visual, or tactile hallucinations
  • Sudden weakness in the muscles
  • Uncomfortable sensations in the legs or limb movements
  • Feeling unable to move immediately after waking up

Anyone concerned about sleep disorders or experiencing symptoms should speak with their doctor.

Common Treatments for Sleep Disorders

Sleep hygiene refers to habits that support healthy sleep. Improving sleep hygiene is an effective treatment for several sleep disorders. Steps to improve sleep hygiene include:

  • Getting seven to nine hours of sleep every night
  • Keeping a consistent schedule of bedtimes and wake times
  • Getting physical activity every day
  • Reducing caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol use, especially a few hours before bedtime
  • Removing lights, computers, and TVs from the bedroom
  • Creating a comfortable sleep environment

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