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 is the polysomnogram.

Common Sleep Disorders

The most common sleep disorders include:

  • Bruxism: involuntarily grinding or clenching of teeth while sleeping.

  • Delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS): Inability to awaken and fall asleep at socially acceptable times but no problem with sleep maintenance, a disorder or circadian rhythms.  Other such disorders are advanced sleep phase syndrome (ASPS) and non-24-hour sleep-awake syndrome (Non- 24), both much less common than DSPS.

  • Hypopnea Syndrome: Abnormally shallow breathing or slow respiratory rate while sleeping.

  • Narcolepsy: Excessive daytime sleepiness, often culminating in falling asleep spontaneously and unwillingly at inappropriate times. Cataplexy, a sudden weakness in the motor muscles that could result in collapse to the floor is also common.

  • Night Terror, Pavor Nocturns, sleep terror disorder: abrupt awakening from sleep with behavior consistent with terror.

  • Parasomnias: Disruptive sleep-related events involving inappropriate actions during sleep stages – sleep walking and night-terrors are examples.

  • Periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD): Sudden involuntary movement of arms and / or legs during sleep, for example kicking the legs. Also known as nocturnal myclonus.  See also Hypnic jerk, which is not a disorder.

  • Rapid Eye movement behavior disorder (RDB) : Acting out violent or dramatic dreams while REM sleep.

  • Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS):  An irresistible urge to move legs. RLS sufferers often also have PLMD.

  • Situational circadian rhythm sleep disorders: Shift works sleep disorder (SWSD) and jet lag.

  • Obstructive sleep apnea: Obstruction of the airway during sleep, causing lack of sufficient deep sleep; often accompanied by snoring. Central sleep apnea is less common.

  • Sleep paralysis is characterized by temporary paralysis of the body shortly before or after sleep. Sleep paralysis may be accompanied by visual, auditory or tactile hallucinations. Not a disorder unless severe. Often seen as part of Narcolepsy.

  • 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.

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