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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Diseases and Conditions > Sleep Disorders
      Category : Health Centers > Sleep Disorders

Sleep Disorders

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

A sleep disorder is a condition that abnormally affects the quality, duration, or behavior of a person's sleep.

What is going on in the body?

Sleep disorders fall into three general categories:

  • primary sleep disorders
  • disorders secondary to a mental disorder
  • other sleep disorders, which are related to a medical condition or substance abuse
  • Primary sleep disorders are caused by some sort of internal disturbance in the sleep-wake cycle. They are categorized as dyssomnias or parasomnias. Dyssomnias involve abnormalities in the amount, quality, or timing of sleep. Common dyssomnias include:

  • circadian rhythm sleep disorder, which involves a resetting of the body's sleep clock
  • hypersomnia, which is sleeping too much and sleeping at the wrong times
  • narcolepsy, which involves a sudden, overwhelming need to sleep at all times of the day
  • primary insomnia, which is trouble falling or staying asleep
  • sleep apnea, a condition in which breathing stops during sleep
  • Parasomnias involve unusual behaviors or body events associated with sleep. These include:

  • nightmare disorders, which involve frightening dreams
  • sleep terrors, which involve abrupt awakening and intense fear
  • sleepwalking
  • Sleep disorders may also be part of a mental disorder, such as anxiety or depression. Other sleep disorders may be caused by medical conditions, such as hormonal imbalances. They may be caused by abuse of substances, such as cocaine or alcohol.

    What are the causes and risks of the condition?

    Each sleep disorder has its own causes and risk factors. However, the following things worsen most sleep disorders:

  • alcohol
  • changes in the sleep schedule
  • chronic illness or pain
  • depression and anxiety
  • drugs, such as caffeine, nicotine, and cocaine
  • excessive daytime napping
  • medicines, such as stimulants, cold medicines, and sleep medicines
  • a poor sleep environment
  • shift work
  • stress
  • People who are obese have an increased risk of sleep apnea. Narcolepsy and some other sleep disorders are thought to have a genetic component.


    Next section


    Sleep Disorders: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Ann Reyes, Ph.D.
    Reviewer: Adam Brochert, MD
    Date Reviewed: 07/11/01

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