Sleep disorders

Sleep disorders are problems related to sleep. They include difficulty falling or staying asleep, falling asleep at inappropriate times, oversleeping, and abnormal behavior during sleep.

Sleep disorders can affect your overall health, safety, and quality of life and increase the risk of other health problems.

Some of the signs and symptoms of sleep disorders may include excessive daytime sleepiness, irregular breathing or increased movement during sleep, and difficulty falling asleep.

Some common types of sleep disorders include the following:

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Insomnia, in which you have difficulty falling asleep or stay up all night.
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Sleep apnea, in which you experience abnormal breathing patterns while sleeping. There are many types of sleep apnea.

Primary Causes

Drugs

Medications and substances that can alter sleep include antihypertensives, anticholinergics, hormones, stimulants, steroids, antidepressants, bronchodilators, decongestants, antineoplastics, caffeine and levodopa.

Physiological changes

Aging causes changes in sleep pattern. In older people, reduced hours and quality of sleep and increased daytime sleepiness are common.

Secondary causes

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Physical or psychological pathologies.
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Cardiovascular disorders.
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Lung disorders: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma.
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Eating disorders.
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Endocrine disorders.
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Neurological disorders: headaches, Parkinson’s disease, injuries to the thalamus, dementia, etc.

Symptoms

Fatigue, weakness and, in extreme cases, even slowness in processing information, irritability, etc.

Diagnosis

To diagnose insomnia, the doctor will evaluate the person’s sleep pattern, his or her use of medications, alcohol, and illegal drugs, the degree of psychological stress, the medical history, and his or her level of physical activity. Some people need less sleep than others, so a diagnosis of insomnia will be based on individual needs.

Sometimes insomnia masks a problem with anxiety or depression.

Pharmacological treatment

The patient should not self-medicate under any circumstances, as these substances can worsen their pathology, generate resistance or create addiction. The treatment must be established by the physician, who will assess the need for administration according to the origin and severity of the disorder.

The most frequent medicines to treat insomnia are benzodiazepines, although if treatment is not followed carefully it can cause serious side effects

Benzodiazepines can produce sedative or depressant effects on the central nervous system, or muscle relaxation effects which can cause falls, gastro-oesophageal reflux or apneas. If benzodiazepine intake is prolonged, there is a risk of causing Alzheimer’s, as some studies have shown. For all these reasons, this type of drug should not be taken for a period longer than 12 weeks.

Other prescribed drugs are zopiclone, barbiturates, H1-antihistamines, certain medicinal plants or melatonin.

Other treatments

  • Valerian: it is tranquilizing and induces sleep.
  • Passion flower: helps to maintain sleep, so it is recommended for people who wake up during the night.
  • California Poppy: avoids early awakening.

Vitamins 

Vitamin D: Helps your nervous, muscular and immune systems. It can be obtained in three ways: through the skin, diet and supplements.

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