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A person is often unaware that he or she has a sleep problem. As a result, sleep problems may go undiagnosed and untreated for many years. Sometimes, the patient complains of daytime fatigue or overwhelming sleepiness. Frequently, a bed partner, rather than the patient, is the best source of information. Some common sleep problems include the following:
InsomniaInsomnia is trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. This problem can make a person feel fatigued during the day, as well as cause trouble in focusing on daily tasks. Although insomnia can be the result of depression or anxiety, there may be physical causes for difficulty with sleep that are unknown to the patient.
Obstructive sleep apneaObstructive sleep apnea is a common but serious disorder in which a person stops breathing repeatedly during sleep, sometimes hundreds of times during the night and often for a minute or longer. Common symptoms of sleep apnea include loud, interrupted snoring, observations by a bed partner of breath-holding episodes, morning headaches, and daytime drowsiness.
Periodic limb movementsPeriodic limb movements are another common sleep disorder that is almost always completely unknown to the patient. A person with periodic limb movements has contractions of the muscles in the lower legs or even actual kicking movements during sleep. Signs of periodic limb movements include a feeling of light, unrefreshing sleep and disheveled bedcovers in the morning upon arising.
Restless leg syndromeRestless leg syndrome is an overwhelming desire to move the legs, usually caused by uncomfortable unpleasant sensations in the legs just as the person is trying to fall asleep. It also can occur while a person is sitting quietly during the day or in the evening. This disorder often keeps patients from falling asleep.
NarcolepsyNarcolepsy is a sleep disorder defined by cataplexy (sudden muscle weakness triggered by strong emotions), sleep paralysis (an inability to move when falling asleep and waking up) and hypnagogic hallucinations (hallucinatory visions when falling asleep or waking up). Not all patients with narcolepsy have all of these symptoms, but constant daytime sleepiness and falling asleep at inappropriate times are common signs.
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