At St. Luke’s, our physicians and other health care professionals treat people with many different kinds of sleep problems and disorders. In addition to the ones presented in detail (insomnia, narcolepsy, restless legs syndrome, sleep apnea, and snoring), there are others that may present differently and have various degrees of severity.
This clenching or grinding of your teeth during sleep can lead to headaches, jaw disorders and damaged teeth. If you wake up in the morning with tired jaw muscles or teeth that ache, or if you have pain that seems to be coming from your ear, but isn’t — you may be grinding your teeth at night. Your dentist may be the first health care professional to pick up on these symptoms.
Circadian Rhythm Disorders
With these types of disorders, your circadian rhythm (internal sleep clock that takes its cues from the day / night cycle) is disrupted so that you can’t follow a regular sleep pattern. These disorders take several forms.
This condition can be severe and disabling. Similar to narcolepsy in its effect, you experience extreme sleepiness, constantly and recurrently, even after you’ve had a good night’s sleep.
Night Leg Cramps
Possibly caused by muscle fatigue or nerve problems, this kind of very painful cramp can wake you up at night, and, over time, cause you to have constantly interrupted sleep. (Note: if you experience sudden and constant cramping, see a physician immediately, as this can be a sign of a serious underlying condition.)
REM Sleep Behavior Disorder
Body movement during the rapid eye movement (REM) phase of sleep is uncommon. Your body is designed that way: it goes into a temporary paralysis, called atonia, to keep you from acting out your dreams. If you suffer from this disorder, however, atonia is not present, and you can act out your dreams with sometimes violent motions such as kicking or fighting.
Sleep talking can occur in any stage of sleep; the lighter the sleep you are in, the more intelligible your words will be. This condition is sometimes associated with sleep apnea or REM sleep behavior disorder.
Sleep-Related Eating Disorder
Frequent, out-of-control eating while you are sleeping characterizes this disorder. Possibly related to sleepwalking, you generally have no memory of your actions at all.
Not just walking, but any form of action that takes place while you are asleep, including, in some cases, driving, occur with this condition.
Some of these disorders can indicate serious underlying health issues. All of them result in interrupted sleep, which can bring on headaches, an inability to focus or concentrate, irritability, and more.
Your physician at St. Luke’s will be able to help you determine the kind of sleep problems you are having and what causes them, and will be able to tell you if these symptoms are associated with any particular sleep disorder. A physical exam and family history will be taken at your appointment, and you may be asked to keep a sleep diary ahead of time or afterwards.
Your health care professional will tell you if he thinks a sleep study, which uses different tests, some overnight, to measure breathing, brain function, and physical movement while sleeping, will be helpful.