Sharon Brandwein on sleep disorders: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments 1 year ago

Sharon Brandwein on sleep disorders: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Do you suffer from a sleep disorder?

I've always suffered badly from insomnia and sleep paralysis and it always seems to be at its worst when I need to be somewhere early the next morning.

This week I spoke to Sharon Brandwein at Amerisleep about the three most common sleep disorders, as well as symptoms and causes.

1. Insomnia

Insomnia is a sleep disorder where people have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. The disorder can also present itself as early morning waking without the ability to fall back asleep. Acute insomnia (which we all deal with occasionally) is a spell of insomnia that lasts anywhere from one night to a few weeks.

Sleepless nights, however, cross the line into chronic insomnia when the issue occurs at least three nights a week and persists for three months or more.

Common Symptoms:

Insomnia is diagnosed based on some of the following symptoms by patients:
Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep
Early waking
Daytime fatigue or sleepiness
Poor focus


2. Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes you to stop breathing for short periods of time while you sleep. Alarmingly, sleep apnea can cause you to stop breathing hundreds of times each night. If left untreated, the confidtion can lead to hypertension, stroke, diabetes, or even a heart attack.

While obstructive sleep apnea is primarily thought of as a condition older adults experience, it can show up in younger individuals.

Common Symptoms:

Daytime tiredness or fatigue
Restless sleep
Frequent waking
Cognitive impairment

3. Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder marked by sudden episodes of deep sleep (often at inappropriate times) and excessive daytime sleepiness. Narcolepsy usually makes its appearance in childhood or young adulthood and is thought to be caused by a lack of a brain chemical called hypocretin (orexin).

While there is no cure for this sleep disorder, you can work with your doctor to manage the symptoms and minimize the impact of narcolepsy on your daily life.

Common Symptoms:

Persistent and excessive daytime sleepiness
Cataplexy (a sudden loss of muscle tone or sudden muscle weakness brought on by a strong emotional trigger)
Sleep paralysis

So how are sleep disorders treated?

"Just as the symptoms differ between specific sleep disorders, so too do the treatments.

Some lifestyle changes may help your disorder. If your sleep disorder is not caused by a more serious medical condition, lifestyle changes can be a helpful way to get your sleep back in line. This approach can be as easy as making a few changes to your diet and exercise plan, or it could require something more challenging like effective stress management.

In some cases, your treatment plan may require a few changes to your bedtime routine. These changes can include managing ambient noise and light in your bedroom, limiting screen time before bed and avoiding caffeine in the evening and large meals before bed.

Counseling or cognitive behavioral therapy is another treatment often recommended for the treatment of sleep disorders. This type of therapy can be done individually, in a group setting, or even online. The length of your treatment will ultimately depend on the type of sleeping disorder you’re dealing with and the severity of the condition."