Understanding My Sleep Problem

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious disorder that can be life-threatening. A person with sleep apnea stops breathing at intervals throughout the night. This is often caused by a blockage of the upper airway. Over a period of time, the person often becomes severely sleep-deprived and may experience excessive daytime sleepiness. Sleep apnea sufferers may also awaken frequently and can develop heart and lung complications.

Many people who snore have, or will develop, sleep apnea. However, it can also occur in non-snorers. The airway obstruction associated with sleep apnea may be caused by obesity, the resting place of the tongue or other physiological factors. Symptoms of sleep apnea include: loud snoring, poor concentration, high blood pressure, morning headaches, impotence, irritability, moodiness and short-term memory loss.

Treatment may involve the application of a mechanical breathing aid that forces air through the passageway during sleep or the surgical removal of the obstructing tissue.

Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS)

UARS is a sleep disorder characterized by airway resistance to breathing during sleep. During sleep the muscles of the airway become relaxed. The relaxation of these muscles in turn reduces the diameter of the airway. Typically, the airway of a person with UARS is already restricted or reduced in size, and this natural relaxation reduces the airway further. Therefore, breathing becomes labored. The primary symptoms include daytime sleepiness and excessive fatigue.

Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD)

Periodic limb movement disorder, also known as nocturnal myoclonus, is a disorder associated with involuntary leg movements during sleep. This condition may disrupt the quality of sleep resulting in significant daytime sleepiness.


Insomnia is described as having difficulty initiating and maintaining sleep. Some causes are ineffective stress management, sleep schedule changes, poor sleep habits, medications and physical illnesses. Chronic insomnia may last from weeks to years and may adversely affect your health.

REM Behavior Disorder (RBD)

RBD is a sleep disorder that involves abnormal behavior during REM sleep. It was first described in 1986.

The major and arguably only abnormal feature of RBD is loss of muscle atonia during otherwise intact REM sleep. This is the stage of sleep in which most vivid dreaming occurs. The loss of motor inhibition leads to a wide spectrum of behavioral release during sleep. This extends from simple limb twitches to more complex integrated movement, in which sufferers appear to be unconsciously acting out their dreams. These behaviors can be violent in nature and in some cases will result in injury to either the patient or their bed partner.


Narcolepsy, a disorder of irresistible daytime sleep attacks, is an inherited disorder that may also cause a sudden loss of muscle tone during laughter or excitement. Narcoleptics also experience numerous sleep disruptions at night. This condition may be treated with stimulating medications and frequently scheduled naps.