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Marlayna Verenna
Mr. Hull
Honors English II
26 February 2016
Common Sleep Disorders
In the United States, there are approximately eighty different types of sleep disorders.
Sleep disorders are conditions that prevent a person from getting a refreshing nights sleep,
which often results in tiredness and dysfunction the next day (Diseases & Conditions). Ten
percent of American adults have chronic insomnia. Fifteen to twenty percent of adults have
acute insomnia and thirty to thirty five percent of Americans have symptoms of insomnia
(Heffron). Eighteen million adults have sleep apnea (Sleep Apnea, sleepfoundation.org) and
200,000 adults in the United States have Narcolepsy (FAQs). Insomnia, sleep apnea, and
narcolepsy are all common sleep disorders among American adults. Seventy million adults in
the United States suffer from sleep disorders, but taking the steps to cure them can be an easy
task ("Diseases & Conditions).
To begin, insomnia is a common sleep disorder among American adults. In fact, it is the
most common sleep disorder in the United States (Phillips). Insomnia is a sleep disorder
characterized by onset, which means falling asleep, and maintenance, which means staying
asleep (Insomnia). It can be described as both a disorder, as well as a symptom of another
sleeping disorder, such as, sleep apnea. Insomnia can also be used to address a primary cause
of a persons inability to sleep, if insomnia is the secondary issue. A person with insomnia can
have trouble sleeping anywhere from a few days to several months; this is where short term and
long term insomnia come into play (What are the 3 Most Common Sleep Disorders?). Short
term insomnia, or acute insomnia, is brief, resulting from life experiences or circumstances
(Insomnia). Acute insomnia usually lasts from one night to a few weeks (Diseases &
Conditions). On the other hand, long term insomnia, or chronic insomnia, results from many

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different situations. Examples of these would be environment changes, medications, changes in
shift work, other clinical disorders, and unhealthy sleeping habits (Insomnia). Chronic insomnia
can last from three nights a week to a month or longer (Diseases & Conditions). Continuing
on, insomnia can have many causes, including medical causes or just simply unhealthy
sleeping habits. Insomnia can result in the brain not being able to initiate its sleep cycle, instead
of its wake cycle. Meaning, the brain either has little desire to sleep, or it has a greater desire to
stay awake. Insomnia can be caused by medical conditions, including chronic pain, asthma,
arthritis, and sinus allergies. It can also be caused by the medications adults take in order to
help aid these sicknesses or conditions. Furthermore, anxiety is a leading cause of insomnia.
Adults can develop insomnia because of feeling overwhelmed or stressed; feelings triggered by
life situations (Insomnia).
Many adults with insomnia experience the same symptoms. A common one is waking
too early in the morning and not being able to go back to sleep afterwards. This will cause
daytime issues for adults which can lead to troubles at work, specifically concentration and
fatigue (Insomnia). Another symptom is night awakening. Many adults claim to have not slept
at all during the night because of multiple awakenings, but they actually got four or more hours
of sleep. This causes adults to feel consistently tired throughout the day (Larson 1028). Not only
does insomnia cause cognitive, or thinking impairment, but it also causes irritability and
behavioral problems. During the day, adults with insomnia will feel motivated to be aggressive
and impulsive, due to their lack of sleep. This can also lead to complications in family members
and friends. To conclude, the symptoms of insomnia can greatly affect an adults life
(Insomnia).
Continuing on, it is important for an adult to go to the doctor and find the right treatment
for them. Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a treatment of insomnia that practices
behavioral changes by adding a cognitive component. CBT challenges the negative thoughts
and fears of sleep caused by insomnia and teaches the adult to think positive about their sleep.

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By attending CBT sessions, adults are able to develop better sleeping skills and improve on
their sleep. Another treatment of insomnia is relaxation training. Progressive muscle relaxation
teaches adults how to relax and tense their muscles to help calm the body for sleep.
(Insomnia). Other relaxation techniques, such as, drinking warm milk (Larson 1029) and
meditation techniques are adequate ways to calm the body before bed. In addition to relaxation,
stimulus control is an effective way to cure insomnia. Stimulus control supports the idea that the
bedroom is just for sleeping and limits activities once done in the bedroom. Stimulus control,
simply, is another way to help the brain associate the bedroom with positive thoughts and rid it
of negative thoughts about sleeping (Insomnia). One more way of treating insomnia includes
the use of hypnotics. Hypnotics are medications used to create a trance that closely resembles
sleep. Common hypnotics include nitrazepam, temazepam, triazolam, and flurazepam
(Neurological Disorders 1376). To summarize, by talking to a doctor, adults can discover which
of these treatments can cure their insomnia (What are the 3 Most Common Sleep Disorders?).
Another sleep disorder common in American adults is sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a
sleep disorder that interrupts a persons breathing during sleep (Diseases & Conditions).
Apnea comes from the Greek word pnein which literally means without breath (Larson
1030). There are three types of sleep apnea; obstructive, central, and mixed (Neurological
Disorders 1379). Obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, is caused by an airway blockage. This
blockage is usually due to a tissue in the back of the throat collapsing during sleep. OSA is the
most common type of sleep apnea. Another type of sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, or CSA,
is when the brain fails to tell the body to breathe during sleep (What are the 3 Most Common
Sleep Disorders?). The third type is mixed sleep apnea, which is a mixture of OSA and CSA
(Sleep Apnea, sleepapnea.org). Moving on, there are many causes of sleep apnea. A main
cause of OSA is when the muscles in the back of the throat relax, the airway narrows or closes,
making it harder to breath. Once the brain receives the message of the inability to breath, it
wakes the person up to reopen the airway (Pruthi). More causes of sleep apnea include having

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a small upper airway, being overweight, having a large tongue or uvula, having a large neck,
smoking, and having a small jaw or large overbite. Each of these factors can disrupt the normal
breathing pattern. As a final thought, OSA has the possibility of being genetic due to the fact that
it seems to run in families (Sleep apnea, sleepfoundation.org).
There are multiple symptoms of sleep apnea. Snoring is one of the leading indicators
and symptoms of sleep apnea (Sleep apnea, sleepfoundation.org). As a matter of fact, if
snoring is paired with fatigue, this can lead to a bigger issue and provides the person with a
feeling as though they did not get any sleep (What are the 3 Most Common Sleep Disorders?).
Gasping, snorting, or choking sounds are also main symptoms of sleep apnea (Pruthi). Another
symptom is falling asleep during the day. For example, an adult can easily fall asleep while
talking on the phone, working, or even driving a car. This symptom also goes hand and hand
with irritability, concentration problems, and depression. Untreated sleep apnea can lead to
major medical problems. These issues include heart failure, stroke, high blood pressure, heart
attacks and cardiac arrhythmia, which is an irregular heartbeat. To conclude, symptoms of sleep
apnea can range in severity and can be very harmful depending on what symptoms a person
experiences (Sleep apnea, sleepfoundation.org).
Treatment of sleep apnea is very important, especially when the symptoms of untreated
sleep apnea come into play. Continuous Positive Airway Pressure, or CPAP, is a machine that
blows a stream of air into the airways to prevent the blockage of the throat collapsing while
sleeping (Breus 16). This method is very common for curing OSA and is highly effective as long
as it is used exactly how the doctor recommends it. Another common treatment is a sleep study.
This sleep study monitors eye movement, heart rate, sleep state, airflow, muscle activity, and
blood oxygen levels. By monitoring all of these functions, diagnosing the sleep apnea can lead
to finding the most effective treatment for each person (Sleep apnea, sleepfoundation.org).
Surgery is also a possible treatment of sleep apnea (What are the 3 Most Common Sleep
Disorders?). This surgery includes the removal of tissue in the upper airway. Continuing on,

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treatment of sleep apnea includes lifestyle changes. Examples of these are losing weight,
avoiding alcohol and not smoking. If an adult is overweight, losing weight can be very effective.
If an adult avoids alcohol, the muscles in the upper airway will relax while breathing and if an
adult quits smoking, their upper airways will not swell up like they did while smoking. In
conclusion, sleep apnea can be dangerous to a persons health if left untreated (Sleep apnea,
sleepfoundation.org).
Narcolepsy is the third sleep disorder that is common among American adults.
Narcolepsy is a neurological sleep disorder that affects the control of sleep and wakefulness. It
usually begins from age fifteen to twenty-five and in many cases, remains undiagnosed
(Diseases & Conditions). Narcolepsy is characterized by overwhelming urges to fall asleep
and people who have it fall asleep randomly with little warning throughout the day (What are
the 3 Most Common Sleep Disorders?). Scientists were able to find and confirm the leading
cause of narcolepsy with cataplexy, a symptom of narcolepsy. It is caused by the lack of two
brain cells called hypocretins which are neurotransmitters involved in the regulation of the sleep
and wake cycles. In contrast, scientists have not discovered the cause of narcolepsy without
cataplexy (FAQs).
There are many symptoms of narcolepsy, some of which are serious and disturbing.
Episodes of cataplexy, daytime sleepiness, hallucinations, and sleep paralysis are main
symptoms associated with narcolepsy (Narcolepsy and Sleep). Cataplexy is an abrupt attack
of muscle weakness that will range from slurred speech, which involves a certain group of
muscles, to a complete collapse, which affects all muscles (What are the 3 Most Common
Sleep Disorders?). It is usually triggered by an emotion, for example, laughter or surprise. The
person will stay conscious throughout an episode of cataplexy. Another symptom is excessive
daytime sleepiness. This, simply, is characterized by a person falling asleep at random
moments and the overwhelming need to go to sleep. Continuing on, hallucinations are when the
person experiences peculiar dream-like experiences that incorporate their real environment.

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These hallucinations will happen from the transition from being awake to being asleep
(Narcolepsy and Sleep). Sleep paralysis, another main symptom, is an episode, either when
falling asleep or waking up, that a person feels that they cannot move (Neurological Disorders
1378). This can last from a few seconds to several minutes and can go hand and hand with the
hallucinations (Narcolepsy and Sleep).
Narcolepsy is often successfully treated through either behavioral therapy or medication
(What are the 3 Most Common Sleep Disorders?). An example of a behavioral therapy is
taking three or more scheduled naps throughout the course of the day. This will help to control
the symptoms of narcolepsy. Other behavioral treatments include a routine sleep schedule,
avoidance of alcohol and caffeine, and a regular meal and exercise schedule (Narcolepsy and
Sleep). Another way to treat narcolepsy is by using stimulants. Ephedrine, amphetamine, and
dextroamphetamine are all stimulants that can be used to treat narcolepsy. Not only can these
stimulants help treat sleep attacks, but they can also lessen attacks of cataplexy (Neurological
Disorders 1378). A final way to treat narcolepsy is counseling. Going to counseling is very
important for an adult with narcolepsy because this sleep disorder can be scary and cause a
fear of falling asleep. It is important that through the treatment of narcolepsy, the person talks to
their doctor to find out what treatment is best for them (Narcolepsy and Sleep).
In conclusion, sleep disorders can be very harmful if left untreated. Many American
adults are diagnosed with a sleep disorder each year, but most of these disorders can be very
harmless if treated correctly. Insomnia is a sleep disorder where people struggle with falling
asleep and staying asleep (Insomnia). Sleep apnea is a disorder that interrupts breathing
during sleep. Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that affects a persons control of sleep (Diseases &
Conditions). As a final thought, finding the right treatment for a sleep disorder is important and
made easy by consulting with a physician.

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Works Cited
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<https://my.cleveland.clinic.org/health/diseases_conditions/hic_Common_Sleep_Disorde
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FAQs. Narcolepsynetwork.org. Narcolepsy Network, Inc., 2016. Web. 24 January 2016.
<http://narcolepsynetwork.org/about-narcolepsy/faq/#faq-list>.
Heffron, Thomas M. Insomnia Awareness Day facts and stats. Sleepeducation.org. American
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Insomnia. Sleepfoundation.org. National Sleep Foundation, 2016. Web. 24 January 2016.
<https://sleepfoundation.org/insomnia/content/what-is-insomnia>.
Larson, David E. Mayo Clinic Family Healthbook. New York: William Morrow and Company, Inc.,
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Narcolepsy and Sleep. Sleepfoundation.org. National Sleep Foundation, 2016. Web. 20
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Neurological Disorders. The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy. Ed. Robert Berkow. Vol
15. Rahway: Merck Sharp & Dohme Research Laboratories, 1987. Print.
Phillips, Kevin. The 4 Most Common Sleep Disorders: Symptoms and Prevalence.
Alaskasleep.com. Alaska Sleep Foundation, 25 March 2015. Web. 25 February 2016.
<www.alaskasleep.com/blog/the-5-most common-sleep-disorders-symptoms>.
Pruthi, Sandhya. Sleep Apnea. Mayoclinic.org. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and
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Sleep Apnea. Sleepapnea.org. American Sleep Apnea Association, 2015. Web. 16 February
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<https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-disorders-problems/sleep-apnea>.
What are the 3 Most Common Sleep Disorders? Valleysleepcenter.com. 23 Kazoos, 2015.
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