A sleep disorder (somnipathy) is a medical disorder of the sleep patterns of a person or animal. Some sleep disorders are serious enough to interfere with normal physical, mental and emotional functioning. A test commonly ordered for some sleep disorders is the polysomnogram.
Hypopnea syndrome: Abnormally shallow breathing or slow respiratory rate while sleeping.
Narcolepsy: The condition of falling asleep spontaneously and unwillingly at inappropriate times.
Night terror or Pavor nocturnus or sleep terror disorder: abrupt awakening from sleep with behavior consistent with terror.
Parasomnias: Include a variety of disruptive sleep-related events.
Periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD): Sudden involuntary movement of arms and/or legs during sleep, for example kicking the legs. Also known as nocturnal myoclonus. See also Hypnic jerk, which is not a disorder. PLMD sufferers often do not also have RLS.
Sleep apnea: The obstruction of the airway during sleep, causing loud snoring and sudden awakenings when breathing stops.
Sleepwalking or somnambulism: Engaging in activities that are normally associated with wakefulness (such as eating or dressing), which may include walking, without the conscious knowledge of the subject.
Snoring: Loud breathing patterns while sleeping; sometimes this is a symptom of sleep apnea.
Broad classifications of sleep disorders
Dysomnias - A broad category of sleep disorders characterized by either hypersomnolence or insomnia. The three major subcategories include intrinsic (i.e., arising from within the body), extrinsic (secondary to environmental conditions or various pathologic conditions), and disturbances of circadian rhythm. MeSH
A sleep diary can be used to help diagnose, and measure improvements in, sleep disorders. The Epworth Sleepiness Scale and the Morningness-Eveningness Questionnaire (MEQ) by Horne and Östberg are other useful diagnostic tools.
According to Dr. William Dement, of the Stanford Sleep Center, anyone who snores and has daytime drowsiness should be evaluated for sleep disorders.
Any time back pain or another form of chronic pain is present, both the pain and the sleep problems should be treated simultaneously, as pain can lead to sleep problems and vice versa.
General Principles of Treatment
Treatments for sleep disorders generally can be grouped into three categories: 1) behavioral/ psychotherapeutic treatments, 2) medications, and 3) other somatic treatments. None of these general approaches is sufficient for all patients with sleep disorders. Rather, the choice of a specific treatment depends on the patient's diagnosis, medical and psychiatric history, and preferences, as well as the expertise of the treating clinician. In general, medications and somatic treatments provide more rapid symptomatic relief from sleep disturbances. On the other hand, some emerging evidence suggests that treatment gains with behavioral treatment of insomnia may be more durable than those obtained with medications.
Some sleep disorders, such as narcolepsy, are best treated pharmacologically, whereas others, such as chronic and primary insomnia, are more amenable to behavioral interventions. The management of sleep disturbances that are secondary to mental, medical, or substance abuse disorders should focus on the underlying conditions.
For most sleep disorders, behavioral/psychotherapeutic and pharmacological approaches are not incompatible and can be effectively combined to maximize therapeutic benefits.