This electroencephalogram (EEG) recording shows brain waves in various states of sleep. Trace 1 is of a brain when awake. Trace 2 shows the alpha-waves of a person still awake, but with eyes closed, receiving no external stimuli. Trace 3 shows theta-waves, as the person falls asleep. Trace 4 shows more complex patterns and trace 5 shows the standard delta-wave pattern usually associated with sleeping. REM, or rapid eye movement, sleep is shown in trace 6. This stage is when dreaming occurs and a
Sleep Cycle_0312 Slideshow
Sleep disorders interfere with the normal sleep cycle and prevent a good night’s rest. Although sleep needs vary from person to person, general guidelines recommend 16 hours for infants, nine hours for teenagers and seven to eight hours for adults.
Sleep Hygiene_0312 Slideshow
Bad sleep hygiene refers to habits that can interfere with the sleep cycle. These include falling asleep in front of the television, going to sleep at a different time each night, drinking coffee in the afternoon or evening, and eating heavy foods or smoking before bed. Engaging in these habits can contribute to insomnia, a sleep disorder that affects one third of U.S. adults during their lifetime.
Depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety, as well as medications used to treat these disorders, can also cause insomnia. Other medical causes include chronic pain, arthritis, asthma, COPD, heart failure, neurological disorders and thyroid problems.
Sleep apnea_0312 Slideshow
Sleep apnea is a disruption of breath during sleep. The disorder is often signaled by snoring, snorting or gasping, and can be a sign of more serious cardiovascular disease such as hypertension, stroke, coronary heart and cardiac arrhythmias. Treatment depends on the cause. If other medical problems are present, sleep apnea may resolve with treatment of these conditions. Gentle air pressure administered with a continuous positive airway pressure device may also effectively treat sleep apnea.
Restless Leg Syndrome_0312 Slideshow
Restless leg syndrome is characterized by an unpleasant creeping sensation, often originating in the lower legs and associated with aches and pains throughout the legs. This often causes difficulty initiating sleep and is relieved by moving the leg by walking or kicking. Abnormalities in the neurotransmitter dopamine have often been associated with RLS. Treatment is with sleep medications to help correct the underlying dopamine abnormality, along with a medicine to promote sleep continuity.
Episodes of “irresistible sleepiness” combined with sudden muscle weakness are the hallmark signs of narcolepsy. The sudden muscle weakness seen in narcolepsy may be elicited by strong emotion or surprise. Narcolepsy episodes have been described as sleep attacks and may occur in unusual circumstances, such as walking and other forms of physical activity. Treatment is with stimulant medications and behavioral interventions, such as regularly scheduled naps, to help minimize disruptiveness.
Somnambulism or sleepwalking is a parasomnia that results in a patient walking or performing other detailed activities in their sleep. It most commonly occurs during nonREM stage 3 or 4 sleep. Episodes can be brief, lasting a few seconds or minutes or as long as 30 minutes. Symptoms include disorientation upon waking, not remembering sleepwalking, opening eyes or appearing awake during sleep and talking during sleep. The most serious complication is injury.
Insufficient sleep is associated with a number of chronic diseases and conditions — such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and depression, according to the CDC. More than one-quarter of the U.S. population report occasionally not getting enough sleep, while nearly 10% experience chronic insomnia. Learn more about sleep and disorders that disrupt it with this slideshow.