Table of Contents
Common Sleep Disorders
Restless Legs Syndrome
Circadian Rhythms-associated Disorders
Endocrine System and Sleep Disorders
Treatment of Sleep Disorders
Sleep plays significant health and physical roles in the body because it is linked to the humoral responses. As such, the quality of sleep acts as an indicator of one’s optimal health and physical well-being. However, the quality of sleep is usually interfered with by sleep disorders. Sleep disorders interrupt sleep by causing sleep disturbances. The most common sleep disorders are insomnia, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, restless leg syndrome and circadian rhythm problems.
Due to the biological mechanisms involved in sleep disorders, this paper will discuss sleep disorders and explain the role of hormones in sleep deprivation.
Sleep has been found to play fundamental biological roles in humans. It is linked to emotional well-being and physical health. This is why sleep deprivation leads to numerous consequences including reduced job performance, accidents, poor health, and stress episodes. From a biological perspective, sleep can be used as an indicator of good health because sleeping tendencies change with an individual’s health. For instance, a good sleep is associated with optimal health and wellness; whereas sleeping problems are associated to a health problem. In most cases, persistent sleeping problems have been identified to be significant indicators of underlying mental health or medical problems (Carskadon & Dement, 2000). In practice, the impacts of sleep in an individual’s health can be explained by the changes experienced after sleep deprivation, even under minimal situations. Sleep deprivation has been found to influence an individual’s mood, ability to respond to stress, efficacy, and energy generation for physical activities in daily life. It is worth noting that loss of sleep in some occasions is caused by internal factors such as stress or external factors including changes of abiotic factors in the ecosystem such as climatic conditions. However, when sleeping problems occur repeatedly leading an interference with an individual’s daily life, it might be an indication that one is suffering from a sleep disorder (Guilleminault, 2005). This phenomenon is attributable to changes in the endocrine system leading to hormonal imbalances. This explains why most women begin experiencing sleep disorders during menopause due a decrease in estrogen and progesterone levels. This indicates how the endocrine system influences sleep in humans. Therefore, this paper will give a comprehensive overview on sleep disorders and explain the role of hormones in sleep deprivation.
Common Sleep Disorders
Currently, a number of sleep disorders have been identified although some sleep disorders are interrelated; the occurrence a certain sleep disorder leads to the occurrence of another disorder. Some of the most common sleep disorders are insomnia, narcolepsy, restless legs syndrome, sleep apnea, and the circadian rhythm disorders.
Insomnia, which is characterized by trouble staying asleep or falling asleep, is regarded as the most common sleep disorder (Parmer, 2006). In reality, most sleep complaints are related insomnia and it is usually defined by the quality of sleep, but not necessarily the hours spend in a sleep. Ideally, sleep is meant to create rest of the body, biological phenomenon that occurs under low metabolic rates in the body and cardiac rhythm. Therefore, the indented outcome of this biological phenomenon is feeling refreshed after sleep. However, insomnia is defined as the lack of the intended outcomes. Ordinarily, insomnia can be short-term or chronic depending on the primary causes of the condition. Insomnia can be caused by a single factor such as stress or a collection of conditions.
Despite the diversity of factors that cause insomnia, an array of signs and symptoms has been identified. In most cases, insomnia in manifested by difficulty staying asleep during the night or falling asleep. It is also characterized by exhaustion after sleep or light and fragmented sleep sessions. Other symptoms associated with insomnia are fatigue, lack of concentration in daily activities and daytime drowsiness. Dependency on alcohol or sleeping pills due to problems falling asleep is also considered as an implication of insomnia (Smith, Saisan, Robinson & Segal, 2015b).
It is reported that insomnia is commonly caused by persistent stress, inactive lifestyle, anxiety or depression disorders, shift work, alcohol consumption, relationship problems, and stimulants such as cocaine and caffeine. In addition, environmental factors have also been found to cause insomnia. For instance, noisy environment or changes in lighting have been found to cause transient episodes of insomnia which subside upon withdrawal of the environmental triggers. Insomnia is also caused by other sleep disorders or health problems (Parmer, 2006). For instance, psychological conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder have been found to be some of the psychological conditions that lead to the occurrence of insomnia. On the other hand, insomnia can be caused by some medical conditions. Some of the medical conditions that have been found to cause insomnia include kidney disease, acid reflux, chronic pain, hyperthyroidism, and cancer. Other medical conditions that are believed to cause insomnia are Parkinson’s disease, allergies and asthma. It is also worth noting that some medications cause insomnia. For instance, medications for high blood pressure; antidepressants; diuretics; thyroid hormone; corticosteroids; and pain relievers such as Excedrin and Midol, which contain caffeine, are known to cause insomnia. Moreover, insomnia is caused by other sleep disorders including sleep apnea, restless legs syndrome and narcolepsy (Smith, Saisan, Robinson & Segal, 2015a).
Sleep apnea is the second sleep disorder that cause sleep deprivation in people. Sleep apnea is considered as life-threatening disorder because it interferes with breathing volumes. In sleep apnea, breathing is interrupted by airway blockages. As a result, people suffering from sleep apnea experience awakenings during sleep; thus affecting the quality of sleep. However, this condition is difficult to identify because most people who have awakenings due to sleep apnea do not notice.
Ordinarily, sleep apnea is characterized by a number of signs and symptoms. Some of these symptoms include exhaustion after sleep, depression, chronic snoring, and snorting during sleep. It is also characterized by dry throat, nasal congestion, shortness of breath, headaches, and chest pain (Smith, Saisan, Robinson & Segal, 2015b). In some cases, people suffering from sleep apnea experience drowsiness during the day with some decrease physical activity. On the other hand, causes of sleep apnea include the abnormal contraction and relaxation of throat muscles, large tonsils, bony structure of the head and neck, as well as the formation of soft fat tissue in the windpipe, a condition commonly experienced under overweight conditions (NIH, 2012).
Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that causes excessive daytime sleepiness. This disorder has been found to be caused by the dysfunction of the brain centers involved in sleep regulation. Ordinarily, people suffering from this disorder experience sleep attacks during their daily activities such as working, conversation or driving in which brain mechanisms to maintain alertness fails leading to an unexpected falling asleep.
Narcolepsy is usually characterized by muscle weakness during episodes of strong emotions such as anger and laughing. In addition, intense dreaming shortly after falling asleep and numbness of the limbs in the morning are considered as some of the most principle signs and symptoms of narcolepsy. Moreover, hallucinations, hearing strange things before falling into deep sleep, are a characteristic of narcolepsy (Smith, Saisan, Robinson & Segal, 2015b).