Sleep Disorders in Adults

On one hand, sleep disorders have various symptoms that can deteriorate your health and quality of life. On the other hand, lifestyle, anxiety or depression, degenerative diseases, epilepsy, cardiovascular or metabolic disorders can disrupt sleep, have daytime repercussions and cause, exacerbate or mask sleep disorders. These relationships are a two-way street.

Primary signs of sleep disorders in adults

The primary signs of sleep disorders in adults include insomnia, hypersomnia and snoring. Hypersomnia and snoring together can be a sign of sleep apnea, a sleep disordered breathing prevalent in adults.

Hypersomnia can also be a sign of narcolepsy, with or without cataplexy.

Your bed partner’s role

The bed partner plays a key role in identifying sleep disorders in a symptomatic or asymptomatic patient. For example, he/she can point out any arm or leg movement at sleep onset or during sleep, which can be a sign of restless legs syndrome (RLS) or periodic limb movements. This may also explain why the person sleeping or the bed partner awakes in the morning with injuries. If the person sleeping shouts, gesticulates wildly, hurls himself at his bed partner or suddenly bolts out of bed, this would be a sign of REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD). Lastly, the bed partner can report episodes of sleepwalking, where the brain of the person sleeping appears to be sufficiently awake to perform a series of complex behaviour, but asleep enough to not be aware of his acts. Crying, shouting or a state of panic may also appear in adults, causing confusional arousals or night terrors.

Sleep apnea can also occur alternately with snoring and worry the bed partner, who will try to wake the person sleeping so that he can restart his breathing pattern. Teeth grinding or jaw clenching may also be observed, indicating bruxism. In the morning, the person sleeping may have a sore throat or jaw, confirming the snoring or bruxism. If the bed partner had not pointed it out, the apnea could have gone unnoticed.

And your bed partner’s quality of sleep?

Arm or leg movements can disrupt the bed partner’s sleep much more than that of the person sleeping. Noises, cessation of breathing (apnea), or any other nighttime symptoms, can also disturb the bed partner’s sleep. A sleep disorder can also disturb the sleep of the children of the sleeping person. This means that the partner and children will not wake feeling refreshed, and may possibly have insomnia with daytime repercussions. One person in the family with a sleep disorder can create disorders or diseases in other family members.

Be vigilant and consult a sleep specialist or, if such is the case, encourage a family member to do so, in the face of any onset of sleep disorder symptoms.

Lifestyle-related sleep disorders in adults

Adults can present with a circadian sleep rhythm disorder caused by their lifestyle. For example, shift work or even frequent business trips can disturb sleep and make a person less productive during the day.

In most cases, sleep deprivation is the reason behind unrestful sleep and low energy in the day, leading to accidents on the road and mistakes to work. Sleep deprivation can also lead to cardiovascular and metabolic dysfunction.

Good sleep hygiene, regular exercise and healthy eating help maintain a good quality of life.

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