Sleep apnea (AP-ne-ah) is a common disorder in which you have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep. Breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes. They may occur 30 times or more an hour. Typically, normal breathing then starts again, sometimes with a loud snort or choking sound.
What Are the Effects of Sleep Apnea?
If left untreated, sleep apnea can result in a growing number of health problems, including:
- High blood pressure
- Heart failure, irregular heart beats, and heart attacks
- Worsening of ADHD
In addition, untreated sleep apnea may be responsible for poor performance in everyday activities, such as at work and school, motor vehicle crashes, and academic underachievement in children and adolescents.
What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) — also called obstructive sleep apnea syndrome — occurs when there are repeated episodes of complete or partial blockage of the upper airway during sleep. During a sleep apnea episode, the diaphragm and chest muscles work harder to open the obstructed airway and pull air into the lungs. Breathing usually resumes with a loud gasp, snort, or body jerk. These episodes can interfere with sound sleep. They can also reduce the flow of oxygen to vital organs and cause irregular heart rhythms.
What Is Central Sleep Apnea?
In central sleep apnea, breathing is disrupted regularly during sleep because of the way the brain functions. It is not that you cannot breathe (which is true in obstructive sleep apnea); rather, you do not try to breathe at all. The brain does not tell your muscles to breathe. This type of sleep apnea is usually associated with serious illness, especially an illness in which the lower brainstem — which controls breathing — is affected. In infants, central sleep apnea produces pauses in breathing that can last 20 seconds. Conditions that may be associated with central sleep apnea include the following: Congestive heart failure Hypothyroid Disease Kidney failure Neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease) Damage to the brainstem caused by encephalitis, stroke, injury, or other factors What Are the Symptoms of Central Sleep Apnea? The main symptom of central sleep apnea is temporary stoppages of breathing while asleep. Although snoring is a very strong symptom of obstructive sleep apnea, snoring is usually not found with central sleep apnea. Symptoms may also include: being very tired during the day waking up often during the night going to the bathroom often during the night having headaches in the early morning poor memory and difficulty concentrating mood problems How Is Central Sleep Apnea Diagnosed? If you have any of these symptoms of central sleep apnea, or if a family member or bed partner notices that you stop breathing while sleeping, you should talk to your doctor or health care provider.
What is restless legs syndrome (RLS)?
Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a recognized neurological disorder that can interfere with resting or falling asleep. If you have restless legs syndrome, a typical night might go like this: You lie down in bed, ready to go to sleep, and just as your body begins to relax, an uncomfortable leg sensations begins to overwhelm your legs. You try to ignore the crawling, tingling, or itching in your legs, hoping it will go away, but it only gets worse. You toss and turn for a while, but eventually the urge to move is too much. You get out of bed to stretch and pace the floor and, for a moment, you find relief. But when you lie down again, the restless sensations in your legs start all over again. Understanding RLS Although restless legs syndrome (RLS) is common—many studies estimate that 1 out of 10 people have it—it hasn’t always been easy to find help and support. Unfortunately, many RLS sufferers never get proper treatment because it’s hard to explain and often misdiagnosed as being “nervous.” Other people—even doctors—may not take restless legs seriously, recognize the symptoms, or realize it’s a real medical condition. Those who haven’t experienced the distressing symptoms may not understand how severely restless legs syndrome can impact the quality of your rest and that of your bed partner.
Signs and symptoms of RLS
Not only are the signs and symptoms of restless legs syndrome different from person to person, but also they can be tricky to explain. Some describe the leg sensations as “creeping,” “prickling,” “burning,” “tingling,” or “tugging.” Others say it feels as if bugs are crawling up their legs, a fizzy soda is bubbling through their veins, or they have a “deep bone itch.”
Here are some signs and symptoms of RLS:
Leg discomfort and strong urge to move – Uncomfortable sensations deep within the legs, accompanied by a strong, often irresistible urge to move them. Many describe the sensations as tingling, jitteriness, a “creepy crawly” feeling, itching, or pulling.
Rest triggers the symptoms – Leg pain is normally trigged by activity and relieved by rest, but with restless legs syndrome, the reverse is true. Restless leg symptoms start or become worse when you’re sitting, relaxing, or trying to rest.
Symptoms get worse night – RLS typically flares up at night, especially when you’re lying down. In more severe cases, the symptoms may begin earlier in the day, but they become much more intense at bedtime.
Symptoms improve when you walk or move your legs – The uncomfortable sensations temporarily get better when you move, stretch, or massage your legs. The relief continues as long as you keep moving. Nighttime leg twitching – Many people with restless legs syndrome also have periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD), a sleep disorder that involves repetitive cramping or jerking of the legs during sleep. These leg movements further disrupt your sleep.