There are several known sleep disorders such as snoring, sleep apnea, insomnia, restless legs syndrome, sleep deprivation and insomnia. It’s a common fact that a good night sleep is important for optimal health. Sleep, a part of the daily normal routine affects hormone levels, weight, and mood. As simple as it may look, it can have a big impact on the person’s overall health.
Most Common Sleep Disorders
Millions of people suffer from sleep disorders all over the world. The four most common sleep disorders include insomnia, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and narcolepsy.
Of all sleep disorders, insomnia is by far the most common sleep disorders. Almost half of the people had experienced its symptoms occasionally. In America, around 10% people reported suffering from chronic insomnia. Insomnia is characterized by having poor sleep quality because of the one or more of the following:
- Having difficulty sleeping at night
- Waking earlier in the morning than planes
- Waking in the middle of the night for no reason and having trouble going back to sleep
Without having a good night sleep regularly can lead to many illnesses and difficulties experienced throughout the following day. Some of the known symptoms of insomnia include:
- Decreased productivity at work or school
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling daytime sleepiness
- Lack of energy (lethargic)
- Mood swings like irritability and aggression
- Troubles keeping healthy personal and professional relationship
The second most common sleep disorder is known as Obstructive Sleep Apnea or OSA. It affects 20 million Americans. However, almost 80% of people with OSA may not even recognize they are experiencing the disorder. While insomnia is the most prevalent sleep disorder, it will take a medical professional to diagnose and treat obstructive sleep apnea.
Doctors diagnose sleep apnea when a person stops breathing for several seconds during the night because of blockage in the upper respiratory system. When the person sleeps, soft tissues in the throat relax which then collapse into the airway blocking oxygen from entering into the lungs. A partial blockage often results in snoring, but a full blockage can cause cessation of breathing. This occurrence is then followed by choking sounds or gasping as the body seeks for fresh air and until normal breathing resumes.
Because of the oxygen depletion, the brain partially awakens from deep sleep to force the respiratory system to breathe harder to remove the blockage. When this happens, the brain never reaches its deeper phases of sleep. The tissue, restorative bone, and cognitive functions are all affected resulting in fatigue and even lethargic feeling the following day. In severe cases, OSA can lead to all kinds of heart problems like heart attack, heart failure, and heart arrhythmia.
Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless leg syndrome or RLS affects an estimated 10% of adults and 2% of children with varying degrees of severity. RLS is characterized by the overwhelming need to move one leg or other body parts while sleeping. Some of the reported sensations of RLS include pulling, aching, itching, burning and throbbing which the only relief is to temporary movement of the legs.
The disorder is classified as sleep disorder because the constant need to move one’s body part can affect in maintaining deep sleep needed for the body to recuperate. It is the most common cause of sleep deprivation found in other disorders like excessive daytime sleepiness, forgetfulness, cognitive impairment, and depression.
One of the most common and dangerous sleep disorder reported is narcolepsy. Characterized by the inability to maintain a sleep and wakefulness cycle, it is the leading cause of vehicular accidents. More than 200,000 Americans experience from narcolepsy, with an estimated 1 in 2,000 people suffer from this disorder.
People suffering from narcolepsy experience extreme daytime sleepiness in which they fall asleep suddenly and unexpectedly during the day. These “sleep attacks” can happen anytime in any activity during the day and is very dangerous when driving. Types of narcolepsy include Excessive Daytime Sleepiness (EDS), sleep paralysis, cataplexy hallucinations, and disturbed nocturnal sleep.
To treat this sleep disorders, medical professional prescribed medications, and therapy. However, most of the prescribed medications can lead to drug dependence and addiction. Because of these, medical health professionals continue to seek an alternative and effective way to treat sleep disorders.
Safe and Alternative Cure
Some of the underlying causes of sleep disorders and not completely understood. This makes it harder to find an effective cure for the disease. The medical community feels the great need to find noninvasive tools to understand better the pathophysiology of these disorders.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation or TMS is offering promising treatment for sleep disorders. As a non-invasive procedure, it is also an effective treatment to restore the integrity of the motor cortex and corticospinal projections in neurologic and psychiatric diseases.
One study shows that TMS can restore functions of the cortical and corticospinal in most sleep disorders. Some of the characteristics of sleep disorders like restless legs syndrome originate in the cortical hyperexcitability. Others had symptoms erupting in the cortical hypo excitability like obstructive sleep apnea syndrome and narcolepsy.
The mechanisms and effects of TMS can enhance the brain activity in normalizing its functions. TMS triggers brain nerve cells to continue communicating and producing newer brain connections. Experts see this opportunity to further study TMS effects and its future implications for improving other therapeutic approaches.