Doctors and specialists who study sleep have identified more than one hundred different types of sleep disorders. Sleep disorders are broken down into four categories as delineated by the International Classification of Sleep Disorders. These categories are dyssomnias, parasomnias, medical/psychiatric disorders and proposed sleep disorders.

Examples of dyssomnias include a variety of subcategories of insomnia, narcolepsy, obstructive sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome. Examples of parasomnias include sleepwalking, bruxism (teeth grinding), bedwetting, and primary snoring.

Medical/ psychiatric sleep disorders include asthma, peptic ulcers, dementia and degenerative brain disorders. Proposed sleep disorders are disorders that dont fit in any of the other three categories such as short sleepers, long sleepers, subwakefulness syndrome and sleep choking syndrome.

Many myths revolve around sleep and sleep disorders that need to be dispelled. Lets take a closer look at some of the most common myths and bust them!

1) It is a myth that health problems such as diabetes, depression, hypertension, obesity, etc. have no connection whatsoever to how much sleep a person gets on a regular basis and the quality of sleep the person in question receives. Research has proven time and time again that there is a very real connection between a bad quality of sleep and/or inadequate sleep due to any number of diseases. To use an example, a lack of sleep can inhibit the ability of the body to properly manufacture insulin, thereby bringing on diabetes.

2) It is a common myth that as you age you require less sleep to function properly. This is not exactly the case. As a general recommendation, seven to nine hours sleep a night is best for most adults, whether they be twenty or fifty although the sleep patterns of people can become different as they get older. However older individuals may actually get less shuteye per night than younger adults because they wake up more often during the night.

3) On the heels of this myth is the myth that you can somehow “cheat” on the quantity of sleep you are getting. It can be adverse to your health and well being both physically and mentally (for a whole host of reasons) to skimp on your hours of sleep. As well you cannot “save up” your sleep for days when you have more time to sleep in. An average of seven to nine hours a night is advisable.

4) It is a common myth that insomnia is simply a problem with falling asleep. This is not so. Insomnia is more complex than that and is associated with four specific symptoms which are, as previously mentioned, a difficulty getting to sleep, but also waking up too early in the morning and not being able to fall back to sleep, frequent moments of waking up during the night and a feeling of being tired or somehow “not refreshed” from a nights sleep.

5) Many people believe that their brain is at rest while they are sleeping. This is not so. The human body rests during sleep while the brain is very much active. During sleep the brain is recharging its batteries and still very much in control of the majority of bodily functions, including breathing. As we sleep we go back and forth between two “sleep states”, these being Rapid Eye Movement sleep (abbreviated to REM and the period in which we dream) and Non-Rapid Eye Movement Sleep (or NREM).

6) It is a myth that sleep deprivation will not affect ones ability to operate a motor vehicle. This is a myth that could prove deadly. It is estimated that approximately 567,000 car accidents that result in 980 highway deaths every year in the United States are related to sleep deprivation. Doing such things as opening the window, turning on the air conditioner or turning up the radio are only stopgap measures to help keep you awake and alert at the wheel. If you refuse to stop and rest your body eventually your mind will block out the things you have done to stay awake and you will fall asleep at the wheel. This could cost you your life and others as well.

The definition of a sleep disorder from a clinical point of view is, “a disruptive pattern of sleep that may include difficulty falling or staying asleep, falling asleep at inappropriate times, excessive total sleep time, or abnormal behaviors associated with sleep.”

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