The 7 main sleep disorders

What are the most common sleep disorders and how to identify them? Dreaming is an essential biological process for life. There are different sleeping troubles that prevent us from having restful sleep and affect our daily life. These disorders are:

1. Insomnia

insomnia is one of the most common sleep disorders and affects 25% of the population. It may be due to other underlying disorders, such as depression or anxiety. Insomnia is defined as the inability to fall asleep and sleep through the night. Everyone needs a certain number of hours of sleep per day to feel rested, on average 7-9 hours per night.

People who suffer from insomnia usually feel drowsy during the day, which interferes with their daily life. But during the night, they again find it difficult to sleep, despite the fatigue. In insomnia, we find the so-called effect of “restless legs” which consists of a feeling of ants in the legs and forces the patient to move them. This effect occurs during the night and makes sleep even more difficult to find.

2. Sleep apnea

It is a common sleep disorder during which the sufferer has a pause in breathing when sleeping. This is usually short and the person recovers their normal breathing by means of a loud snore. It is usually a chronic disorder that impairs sleep, as it occurs during REM phase and turns it into a light sleep, which results in the person suffering from it not resting properly.

The first person to notice it is usually a relative, because the one who suffers from it does not realize it. The most common type of disorder is obstructive sleep apnea, which is due to an obstruction of the airways not allowing air to pass. This type of apnea is usually more common in overweight people.

If apnea is not treated properly, the consequences can be serious because, during periods of anoxia (lack of air in the brain), the neurons associated with dreaming can be damaged, which increases the probability of heart attacks.

Other less common disorders are narcolepsy and the cataplexy.

3. Narcolepsy

This neurological disease is due to a cerebral anomaly that alters the neural mechanisms of dreaming. It presents as sudden episodes of sleep during waking hours: the person who suffers from it sleeps 2 to 5 minutes in any place. Upon waking up, this person feels fully lucid. This can happen to him while driving, talking or just walking around. These people do not go through the so-called slow wave dream and go straight to the REM phase. Narcolepsy can also affect dogs.

Within this disease, there are variants such as cataplexy: it is a total paralysis that occurs during wakefulness. The affected person suffers from muscle weakness, may be totally paralyzed and fall to the ground. What happens is that the REM dream phenomenon occurs at an inappropriate time. The person remains conscious during these seizures.

Hypnagogic hallucinations: these are lived dreams that take place before the person falls asleep, waking dreams.

sleep paralysis: sleep paralysis usually occurs just before sleep or waking up in the morning, but always at a time when it does not represent a danger for the person who suffers from it.

4. Behavioral disorders associated with REM sleep

During REM sleep, we are paralyzed at the bodily level. Without it, we would represent our dreams.

In a disorder associated with the REM phase (which is a neurodegenerative disease), patients represent their dreams, getting up and moving without being aware of it. They may suffer injuries.

5. Disorders associated with slow wave sleep

During this phase, which concretely corresponds to phase n°4 of sleep (one of the deepest), some people suffer from inappropriate behavior such as somnambulismnocturnal enuresis (wetting the bed) and night terrors.

6. Sleepwalking

In children, sleepwalking may be due to fatigue, lack of sleep or anxiety: in adults, it can be due to mental disorders or alcohol, among others. These people can get up, walk around normally, act…these episodes are usually very brief and, if no one wakes them up, the sleepwalkers will go back to sleep but they can also stay asleep anywhere.

In somnambulism, we also find the dream-associated swallowing disorder: the sleepwalker eats while sleeping. To prevent this behavior, food is usually locked away.

7. Night terrors

Night terrors are more common in children between the ages of 3 and 7. The child may sweat or breathe agitatedly, be in shock and very disoriented.

Ultimately, we need restorative sleep to function 100% in our daily lives. This is the reason why, if you notice some of the symptoms that we describe, you do not hesitate to consult your doctor, who will be able to make a diagnosis and take the necessary measures. Many of these sleep disorders have very effective treatments.