These Fact Sheets have been prepared to give an overview of symptoms, causes and treatment of a variety of sleep disorders .
(click on the link to read the fact sheet)
Ageing and Sleep
If you are over 60 it will come as no surprise to hear that sleep changes as we age. Nearly a third of our life is spent asleep. Infants spend most of the day asleep. Through youth and young adulthood the pattern of sleep that we have come to accept as "normal" or "good" develops. As we grow older sleep becomes lighter and more interrupted and other factors may impact on our ability to get that "good" night's sleep. Poor sleep impacts on our ability to enjoy daytime activities. There are things that you can do to improve this situation.
Childhood Snoring and Sleep Apnea
You often don,t think of children as snoring or suffering from sleep apnea but surprisingly a number do. The condition can be just as serious as in adults and may lead to daytime health problems such as failure to thrive, developmental delay or behavioural problems.
CPAP - Continuous Positive Airway Pressure
If you suffer from sleep apnea then CPAP or Continuous Positive Airway Pressure is the most successful treatment. Almost all sleep doctors will suggest you try CPAP before resorting to other treatments
Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome
Everyone differs in their need for sleep and their sleeping habits but once we have adapted to a particular sleeping pattern, most of us are able to keep to that schedule. People who suffer from Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome are unable to get their sleep pattern back in line with what is considered normal and even if they do, they are not able to maintain this. This is a significant problem to the person suffering from DSPS, leading to insomnia and depression.
Have you ever been driving and suddenly found your eyelids droop, your eyes go out of focus, you can't stop yawning and you can't remember driving the last few kilometres? If so you have been a "drowsy driver" and you're not alone! A 2003 survey by the National Sleep Foundation in the United States found that 60% of adults surveyed reported driving while feeling drowsy. Twenty percent reported that they had actually dozed off while driving.
Most people experience difficulty sleeping (insomnia) at some time. It is the second most common medical complaint with almost one half of older adults experiencing symptoms of insomnia on a few nights a week. Despite this few people seek help from their doctor. Insomnia costs the Australian community over half a billion dollars each year in direct medical costs and as much as ten times that amount in indirect costs such as lost productivity or days off work. For both the community and the sufferer it is an issue that should not be ignored.
Narcolepsy is an uncommon but very debilitating sleep disorder. Because the symptoms are similar to other more common conditions the number of people with narcolepsy is hard to estimate but it is likely to affect about 1 person in 2000. Usually the most worrying aspect of narcolepsy for the sufferer is uncontrollable sleepiness during the day.
Restless Legs and PLMS
If you suffer from unpleasant creeping sensations or your legs twitch during the night you may have Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) or Periodic Limb Movements of Sleep (PLMS). In PLMS the movements occur only during sleep whereas in RLS the sensations occur while you are awake.
The body has a natural rhythm which helps you sleep at night and stay alert during the day. When you work shift work you must struggle against this. Long shifts or insufficient daytime sleep lead to tiredness and accidents.
Sleep Apnea - Obstructive (OSA)
Apnea means absence of breath. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA - often just called Sleep Apnea) occurs when the airway from the mouth to the lung collapses during sleep. The person with sleep apnea may have hundreds of these episodes throughout the night, disrupting their sleep and starving the body of vital oxygen. Sleep apnea is a common condition affecting about 5% of adults. Fortunately effective treatment is available and once treated the person with sleep apnea leads a normal healthy life. Another form of sleep apnea (Central Sleep Apnea) is much less common, and is dealt with in a separate fact sheet.
Sleep Apnea -Central (CSA)
About 10% of patients with sleep disordered breathing have central sleep apnea (CSA). An apnea is a temporary cessation of breathing. When measured in a complex sleep study (polysomnography) there are rules by which abnormal breathing events are classified. These use airflow and breathing effort as measured by movement of the chest and abdomen. When there is no airflow but there is effort to breathe, the apnea is called "Obstructive". When there is no airflow but no respiratory effort the apnea is called "Central". Mixed apneas start with no chest/abdominal effort but effort develops during the course of the apnea. When the majority of the abnormal breathing events are of the central pattern, the patient is said to have central sleep apnea. As with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) there are repeated interruptions to breathing during sleep with daytime sleepiness. Insomnia or difficulty sleeping may also be reported. Loud snoring is not such a common feature as in OSA.
Sleep hygiene is a term used to describe good sleep habits, that is things you can do to give yourself the best chance of a good refreshing sleep. Most of these things are common sense but in the hustle and bustle of modern life are often neglected. Here are some "Dos" and "Don'ts" to help you get a good night's sleep. If you're having trouble sleeping, attention to some of these simple things may help.
The best way to diagnose many sleep disorders is with a Sleep Study or Polysomnogram conducted at a specialist Sleep Disorders Laboratory. This fact sheet tells you what to expect from this study. If you are seeing a doctor for a problem with sleep, particularly if the doctor thinks you may have sleep apnea, chances are you have had or are going to have a "sleep study". About 65 000 sleep studies are conducted each year in Australia. In 1980 no more than a handful of sleep studies were performed. Since then a sleep study has become accepted as the best way to diagnose a number of conditions that occur during sleep.
Snoring occurs when air does not flow smoothly through the air passages, or when the soft tissues or muscles in your throat vibrate during sleep. Snoring occurs in all age groups. The largest affected group however, is the middle aged population. Snoring may be associated with long term health problems such as an increased risk of heart attack or stroke. Many snoring remedies have been suggested but few have been shown to be effective.