According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, there are more than 60 different sleep disorders affecting at least 20 million Americans. Whether the sleep disorder is common or rare, many have the potential to be extremely severe if left untreated. These conditions can appear individually or in conjunction with sleep apnea.
Narcolepsy, advanced and delayed sleep phase syndrome, bruxism, and REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD) are four examples of lesser-known sleep disorders. Sleep studies help diagnose these conditions, and treatment options are available depending on the severity.
Narcolepsy is a chronic disorder that causes overwhelming daytime sleepiness. It is suspected that narcolepsy is caused by genetic factors and abnormal signaling in the brain. Major signs of narcolepsy include falling asleep without warning, losing muscle tone, and having hallucinations. These symptoms frequently start between ages 7 and 25 but may occur at any point in life.
It is estimated that anywhere from 135,000 to 200,000 people in the United States have this condition, but it often goes undiagnosed. Narcolepsy is treated with medication to reduce sleepiness, and side effects of treatment are uncommon. If left untreated, narcolepsy can be socially isolating and lead to depression.
Advanced/Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome
Advanced and delayed sleep phase syndrome affect what time patients wake up and fall asleep. In advanced sleep phase syndrome, patients wake early in the morning and have trouble staying awake in the evening. Delayed sleep phase syndrome is the opposite, with patients staying up late and having trouble functioning in the morning.
A sleep doctor can determine if there are any factors intensifying the problem, like not getting enough natural light during the day. Treatment includes taking melatonin, receiving behavioral counseling, and undergoing chronotherapy. Chronotherapy involves shifting a patient’s bedtime each day until reaching a normal sleep schedule.
Bruxism, also known as teeth grinding, occurs as the jaw contracts during sleep. This causes patients to wake up with teeth, jaw, and mouth pain. Sore gums, worn tooth enamel, and increased sensitivity are common signs of teeth grinding.
Bruxism has the potential to cause serious dental damage if left untreated. People who grind their teeth during sleep are also more likely to have other sleep disorders, such as snoring or sleep apnea. It is recommended that patients speak with their dentist soon after noticing symptoms. Decreasing the use of cigarettes and caffeine helps alleviate occurrences, and plastic oral appliances are typically used to prevent further damage.
REM Sleep Behavior Disorder
Patients with RBD act out vivid dreams as the body enters REM sleep. These actions include shouting, swearing, punching, and kicking. The episodes sometimes begin by talking, twitching, and jerking while dreaming for years before a patient begins fully acting out REM dreams. The condition tends to worsen over time without treatment.
A major issue with RBD is that many people ignore the symptoms for long periods of time, until it eventually results in an injury. Physicians recommend taking bedroom safety precautions and may also prescribe medications to help alleviate symptoms. Regular follow-ups are necessary to continue monitoring the condition over time.
Diagnose Sleep Disorders with DreamClear™
Although a home sleep testing unit, like DreamClear™, is typically used for sleep apnea patients, it can also help physicians spot lesser-known sleep disorders in patients. These conditions may surface by themselves, but they often occur along with sleep apnea. If a patient does not have sleep apnea but is still experiencing sleep issues, further studies may be helpful to pinpoint the cause.
To learn more about how DreamClear™ is helping patients improve sleep health, please contact a member of our team today.