What is a Sleep Disorder?

a sleep disorder could be keeping you awake

On average we all need six to eight hours of sleep every night. Any less than this may effect you the next day, with symptoms like low energy, mood swings and concentration problems. However, from a medical perspective, these mere interferences may already be considered as signs and symptoms of a sleep disorder.

Sleep disorders are classified into:

1) insomnia

2) parasomnia or undesirable motor or autonomic activity during sleep

3) sleep disorders associated with medical disorders

4) proposed sleep disorders (e.g., pregnancy-related sleeping disorders.

They are affected by one’s amount and quality of sleep. Among them, the most common among children and adults is insomnia.

Insomnia is broadly defined as a condition where the person experiences inadequate or poor quality of sleep, difficulty in initiating and/or maintaining sleep, and sleep that is not restorative and/or refreshing.

It may be attributed to primary or secondary causes. The former refers to that which is unrelated to any unidentifiable medical or psychiatric disorder while the latter includes conditions where another disorder which contributes or aggravates the dilemma can be diagnosed.

A good example of a primary cause is adjustment disorder. One who experienced job loss, hospitalization and other stressful life events may encounter difficulty in sleeping. On the other hand, secondary causes include medical illnesses (e.g., respiratory disorders) and psychiatric disorders (e.g., anxiety).

Aside from its causes, insomnia may also be classified according to its severity. It may be mild, moderate or severe. As the degree of severity increases, the impairment to one’s social or occupational functioning increases (The International Classification, 2001).

Furthermore, the same classification may also refer to the frequency of one’s sleeplessness ‘episodes’. A person with a mild sleeping disorder encounters ‘episodes’ only for a few nights; whereas a person with a severe form of the condition encounters the same for more than a month.

Regardless of its cause or severity, a person must immediately consult a physician if he/she thinks he/she has insomnia. For one, it is considered as a medical condition; hence, it must be treated. Second, more than it being a medical condition, the condition may lead to devastating consequences.

What started out as lack of sleep may end with a person not living his/her full potential due to exhaustion, fatigue and even depression. Therefore, insomnia must be treated and not taken for granted.

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