thriving with narcolepsy

What Causes Sleep Disorders?

Anyone affected by them wants to know what causes sleep disorders. We wait anxiously for a cure. Before the cure, we must find the cause. A cure would bring thousands of people relief from the daily torment of a sleep disorder.

Sleep is Still a Mystery

It is the brain, after all.

As the” brain is not an easily accessible organ, mechanisms of disease initiation and progression remain a challenge to researchers.”

-Singh AK, et al. J Autoimmun. 2013

The function of the brain is still an unknown frontier. It is vast and complex. It is perhaps a more complicated exploration than the great ocean depths and the dark distances of space. Yet, more understanding of it is urgently needed in many areas. The study of sleep is just one of them.

Mysteries of Science

Thankfully modern medical research seems to be making significant strides toward understanding the science of sleep.


It wasn’t until after the 1950s that there was much research or interest in studying sleep. Until that time, sleep was believed to be a period of passive brain activity. There was no understanding of the importance of sleep and the impact of sleep on our lifestyle and health.

It was after World War II that the studies of the famed psychiatrist Sigmund Freud sparked an interest in dreams. This led to the discovery of rapid eye movement during sleep. This is when curious minds went to work on the study of REM and this mysterious thing we call sleep.

What We Know

Sleep Apnea-

In 1965 some European groups identified the condition they called sleep apnea, named after the Greek word “apnea”. Which means “without or want of breath”.

Sleep apnea is a condition characterized by loud snoring, choking or gasping during sleep. A person with who has sleep apnea periodically has pauses in their breathing while sleeping. The individual is not usually aware of these brief moments of waking. They are more often aware of unusual drowsiness in the day. However, not everyone with sleep apnea struggles with the sleepiness.

Sleep apnea has been classified into 3 types:

  • Obstructive –  the most common form of sleep apnea. It is caused when the tissue in the throat obstructs the airway.
  • Central- the brain fails to send the signal to the brain to inhale.
  • Mixed –  a combination of obstructive and central apnea.

For nearly two decades the most widely used treatment was a tracheotomy, which involved surgically opening a hole in the windpipe.

 

OUCH! cringe…

Thankfully, in 1981 Professor Colin Sullivan developed the first CPAP. Which was much different from what we have today, but I imagine far better than the tracheotomy!

Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy was first described way back in 1880 by Jean Baptist Edourad Gelline; long before anyone was studying sleep.

Thankfully there were curious minds in the world who kept researching. Although, it is a very complex condition we now have some comprehension of what narcolepsy is about. and there is much more to discover about it.

The symptoms of narcolepsy widely vary but they include:

  • extreme daytime sleepiness
  • sleep attacks
  • sleep paralysis
  • automatic behavior
  • cataplexy
  • lucid dreaming

Narcoleptic sleep attack

For me personally, the cataplexy has been the most frightening symptom to deal with over the years. I am grateful to say that it has been well controlled with antidepressants.

Narcolepsy is believed to be caused by a lack of hypocretin. Hypocretin is responsible for keeping us awake and alert. Some speculate that the producing cells in the hypothalamus have been damaged. People with narcolepsy are believed to have a genetic predisposition for it from birth.

At least one study has suggested a possible link between narcolepsy and certain strains of infection like strep and influenza. Some researchers are suspect that narcolepsy is, in fact, an autoimmune disorder.

Based on my own experience with narcolepsy, I think this hypothesis is headed in the right direction. Of course, further research is needed for the classification to change.

The research is exciting and promising.

However, I must admit that it is really hard to imagine what life would be without being narcoleptic!

Insomnia

This condition is easily recognized and usually, self-diagnosed by the inability to fall asleep and difficulty staying asleep.

The all-night struggle to sleep leaves a person drowsy during the day. This nonrestorative sleep often impairs brain function so memory is affected and the brainy is “foggy”. Memory and concentration are hindered. This is obviously a problem when you need to be alert for your day. There are things you can do to help you get through your day. One of these things is to take supplements to help your brain.

Restless Leg Syndrome

RLS is an irresistible urge to move your legs when sitting or lying down.

The exact cause of this is still unknown. However, studies suggest that the transmission of the dopamine signal is impaired. Iron deficiency could be a contributing factor as well.

Why Does It Matter?

Those of us who live with the sleep deficits, stress and frustration of a sleep disorder know why it’s important to find out what causes sleep disorders. We know the desperate longing for a cure to be found. However, others perhaps do not truly understand the need.

Our health and general well-being are immensely affected by the quality of sleep.

Today 50-70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders and complain of occasional disruptions of their sleep.

The risks of sleep apnea include cardiovascular problems, stroke, diabetes, and even death. Having sleep apnea increases a person’s risk of death by more than 3x.

And 25 million Americans suffer from sleep apnea.

1 in every 2,000 have narcolepsy but in addition to that, many people go undiagnosed.

 

Ways to Help

 

Whether you are a person with a sleep disorder, a friend or a family member of someone who is or a community member just looking to help, there are ways to contribute to the research and support of individuals suffering.

 

One very important way is by helping to spread awareness about these conditions. Also, you can encourage sleepy people to talk to a specialist if they suspect their sleep is not restorative.

A second way to can help is to volunteer at a conference held by organizations such as the Narcolepsy Network.

Donate

If you are an athlete you could run a marathon to raise funds for research and awareness.

 

There is Hope

During my research for this article, I have come across a lot of fascinating facts and research. I am thrilled to see that so much has been happening in the research of sleep disorders in recent years. I expect that the momentum to find a cure will continue to grow. Eventually, a cure will emerge as long as we keep pushing for it.

48 thoughts on “What Causes Sleep Disorders?”

  1. Hi there, I have read the content on this site and I find it very interesting. As a sufferer of restless legs syndrome for years, I now take a pill to ward off kicking around while trying to sleep. Yes and it seems to be a deficiency in the production of meletonin – similar to Parkinson’s but not the same. The site is very well set out and easy to navigate through, The content is informative. I felt the section talking about Sleep Disorders could provide more information with a case study and treatment. Hope this helps…Kind Regards Jen

    Reply
  2. Hi Rachele,

    Information you shared about sleep apnea is an eye-opener for me. Your article is highly uplifting & educational. 

    I worked for 6 years in a night shift call center (I resigned that job in 2014). As a result, I struggle a lot to sleep on time. Last night also I slept after 12.30 am. I can tell you I have taken great insights from your article.

    I was shocked to know that 50-70 million Americans suffer from sleeping disorders. You not only discussed the problem but you have provided with help solutions and your article giving new hope which is amazing.

    You gave us an encyclopedia of knowledge here.

    Reply
    • Oh my, Paul thank you so much for your informative comments. An encyclopedia is a lot of information! I’m immensely pleased that I was able to share new information with you. Please come back and visit again as I will be providing many more tips about sleep.

      Reply
  3. I have a mild case of OSA that’s been confirmed in a sleep study. The funny thing is that I don’t snore audibly and I’m not overweight, at all. Apparently sometimes it’s just caused by the structure of your larynx or whatever the back of your airways is called. It can collapse due to gravity if you sleep on your back. Now I don’t have it bad enough for insurance to cover a CPAP machine. So I just have to try not to sleep on my back for the time being and avoid gaining weight.

    Reply
    • Thanks for sharing! I really appreciate hearing from you. Another thing you can do is use pillows or a foam wedge to prop yourself up from the waist up. This will help keep the tissue from closing your airway. Best wishes! Please come back as I would love to know if any of my upcoming tips help you.

      Reply
  4. Is snoring a form of sleep disorder? If yes! How can one overcome it? 

    I have a cousin, he snores heavily when ever he sleeps, this wasn’t so until one day when he had an encounter with armed robbers. He was shot, had to go through an operation, since then he snores really badly. 

    What can he do or what should he do to help himself? 

    Reply
    • Wow that must have been frightening! I highly recommend that he seek advice from a professional to explore what the cause of the snoring is. There are absolutely ways to help alleviate this condition. He can get sleeping on his side, use a saline mist to open up sinuses before bed and perhaps try taking a decongestion medication. First and foremost is to see a medical provider.

      Thank you so much for sharing! Best of luck! I hope to hear from you again.

      Reply
  5. Hello, I really want to first appreciate your effort in putting this great website together and writing this article. few years back, i frequently experience sleep disorders and this got me worried. i started searching for ways to control the situations. this article is really of great help to me thanks a lot.

    Reply
    • I wish you the best in your journey with a sleep disorder. I’m glad I could help. Keep in mind that seeking help from a professional is very important. But please come back and visit my site again soon.

      Reply
  6. Hey, I enjoy a lot while reading your article and find it very useful for everyone. Now I know that the function of the brain is still an unknown frontier. It is perhaps a more complicated exploration than the great ocean depths and the dark distances of space. Yet, more understanding of it is urgently needed in many areas.  I felt the section talking about Sleep Disorders could provide more information with a case study and treatment. Hope this helps

    Reply
  7. Hello, I have read the content on this site and I find it very interesting. As a sufferer of restless legs syndrome for years, I now take a pill to ward off kicking around while trying to sleep. I felt the section talking about Sleep Disorders could provide more information with a case study and treatment. You not only discussed the problem but you have provided with help solutions and your article giving new hope which is amazing.

    Reply
    • Thank you for sharing and offering me valuable feedback. I am certainly happy to hear that you feel I am providing hope. That is my aim. Thanks and come back soon.

      Reply
  8. Hello, Your guide is awesome for everyone. As we know one very important way is by helping to spread awareness about these conditions. Also, we can encourage sleepy people to talk to a specialist if they suspect their sleep is not restorative. The site is very well set out and easy to navigate through, The content is informative. Information you shared about sleep apnea is an eye-opener for me.

    Reply
  9. Thanks for sharing this awesome article with us,I must tell since sleep disorders can be both caused by and trigger emotional health problems such as anxiety, stress, and depression, therapy is an effective way of treating the underlying problem rather than just the symptoms, helping you develop healthy sleeping patterns for life.i hope this is Ben crumbed from our dear society.

    Reply
  10. Hello, I really want to first appreciate your effort in putting this great website together and writing this article. few years back, It is perhaps a more complicated exploration than the great ocean depths and the dark distances of space. Yet, more understanding of it is urgently needed in many areas. I felt the section talking about Sleep Disorders could provide more information with a case study and treatment. Hope this helpsThamnk you

    Reply
  11. I have a cousin, he snores heavily when ever he sleeps, this wasn’t so until one day when he had an encounter with armed robbers. Last night also I slept after 12.30 am. I can tell you I have taken great insights from your article. You not only discussed the problem but you have provided with help solutions and your article giving new hope which is amazing.

    Reply
  12. Nice educating article about sleeping disorders bromley thanks to  you i get to know about sleeping disorder am not sure is i have narcolepsy But i posses  the symptoms of  Extreme daylight sleepiness  i guess i should see a specialist right  ..? But have been these way for some time now 

    Reply
    • If you suspect that you have a sleep disorder please see a specialist. Even if you’ve dealt with it a long time it is bad for your health. Also please come visit my site again.

      Reply
  13. Hello, I really want to first appreciate your effort in putting this great website together and writing this article. sleep disorder is a really bad thing. i started experiencing sleep disorder at a very tender age because of the trauma of loosing my mum at that age. i am glad you wrote this article. thank you

    Reply
  14. Thank you for researching and publishing this important information. There is still not enough awareness of sleep disorders and the potential negative health effects. A friend of mine’s husband had been teased all his life about his snoring and it was only when my friend trained to be a nurse that she realised that it might be s serious health problem. She eventually convinced him to go to his doctor and he was diagnosed with moderate sleep apnea. He now has to sleep using a CPAP machine and a heart monitor but hopefully he will have a longer and healthier life.

    Reply
    • The CPAP is truly a life changing device! I’m happy to hear that your friend got the help he needed.Thanks for your comments! Share this to help make more people aware of how dangerous sleep disorders can be.

      Reply
  15. I was very interested in learning about what causes sleep disorders, as lately my sleeping habits have been disrupted from the normal routine and I cannot figure out what has changed. My daily routine is the same, and I was thinking maybe it was just a matter of getting older, but of course, I wanted to read up on what else it could be…

    After reading through the possible underlying problems that manifest themselves as a sleeping disorder you have listed, I have decided to see a doctor so I can describe to him what exactly I am experiencing. He will likely be able to guide me further once he has categorized the type of disorder this may be, and can also check to see if there are any health problems. Thanks so much!

    Reply
  16. The brain is truly very complex. I have this friend who I think has this narcolepsy, he sleeps all the time and while driving. I have three friends with severe sleep disorders, I would love to do more research on this to see how I can help. I am really grateful for this post in letting know some things about sleep that I haven’t heard before in my life. 

    M friend went to a doctor on my advice and he was told there would be an operation to correct something in his brain but he doesn’t have the money. Is there something else he needs to do other than that operation to help himself?

    Reply
    • Hi thank you for your comments. What is your friends condition? I would like very much to know. I would suggest that your friend get a second opinion from another doctor. Best wishes.

      Reply
  17. Thank you so much for providing such a beautiful information.I have been suffering from sleep disorders for a long time.I do not sleep properly at night.It feels bad and feels very weak.Almost every time I go to sleep medicine.Many times this medicine does not work.I didn’t really understand why this was happening.Reading your article, I learned many things I never knew before.So thank you again for sharing such a wonderful article with us.

    Reply
  18. Many thanks to you for sharing such a beautiful article with us and with your help of this article I got the opportunity to discuss a wonderful topic. You have described a wonderful article about sleep disorders that deserves praise. In 2018 I worked as a hospital nurse and I had to work awake almost every night.  The reason I quit my job last month was to make my body worse because of waking up at night .But I still face various problems because I wake up at night and now I don’t get much sleep at night now and some nights I go to sleep at two O’clock. When I read your article, I found a great solution through your article and I hope that many people like me will get a solution after reading this article. And I want to share this post on my social media and I think if I share this post on my social media then many will know about it.

    Reply
  19. HI,

    I have read the article fully. Actually I am very much surprised to read it.I did not know much about it. it has made me clear about the sleeping disorder. can I inform me much about it? 

    The sleeping disorder may be caused also for many reasons. Such as the sleeping environment is very needed for sound sleep. But this content is very much scientific.

    This article has given me much information about sleeping disorders. So I want to share this in my social network. Thanks a lot for this exclusive information that is very informative to all.

     

    Reply
  20. Hi, this article is super fascinating and interesting. I had a friend who suffered from sleep apnea, he did try to explain to me what it is, but the way he explained it, he really scared me, he said that in the middle of sleep he stops breathing and he could die.

    And he had a device that helped him when this happens but I don’t remember the name of the diverse. It sounds to me like more research is needed to determine what causes sleep disorders, so they can be treated accordingly.

    But as you mentioned, the brain is a mysterious organ so I guess it’s going to take lots of work to come up with the answers.

    I am happy to hear that the researchers are working hard, on this matter and there is hope.

    For me, sleeping does become challenging some nights, I can fall asleep but I don’t stay asleep for long, and then once I awake, it’s hard to fall back asleep which means the following day I will be very tired. I am not sure if I do fall into the category of Insomnia. I sure would like to know.

    In your article, you mentioned Professor Colin Sullivan developing CPAP in 1981, and you said its much better than tracheotomy, what is it, I am curious.

    This article has been very educative, thank you so much for researching and writing it, I am sure it took a lot of time to write.

    Rose

    Reply
    • The CPAP is probably he device you mentioned your friend having. It just blows air into your airway to keep the tissue in the back of the throat from obstructing the airway. I will post an article with a more info on that soon. Come visit my site again. Thanks for your comments.

      Reply
      • OH, yes now I remember my friend describing the device and saying that it blows air into his throat helping him breathe. That makes a lot of sense now. Thank you so much for your answer.

        I was genuinely curious.
        Of Course, I will come back and read your next article, You are doing a great job with these articles.
        They must take you lots of time to prepare, but they are absolutely helpful to us.

        Rose.

        Reply
        • They do take time but it is so rewarding to get comm like yours, that it is very pleasant. This isn’t really work! Best of luck to you.

          Reply
  21. Thank you very much for nice article. Your article is helpful to me. Because I was searching this kind of post for a long time. Your title ”what causes sleep disorder’s” attracted me a lot to read your post fully. I have read your article fully and find my  answers. Like most of the man I also felt these kind of disorders. I was reaching how to solve them. 

    your review is really educative to me. I have found a lot of things about it. I will share this post with my friend. I hope they can be helpful trough your article.

    Reply
  22. Oh Rachele. I am not sure I have a sleep disorder. However, back then in school, my brother has complained that I snored sometimes. Well, I observed that there might two reasons behind this snoring. Firstly, I don’t sleep most nights and secondly, I usually stress myself alot. Well, I don’t sleep most nights because I am doing some research online. I do some kid of computer job during the day and school stress too. I observed that if I decide to leave everything and sleep, I sleep very well without issues.

    I really hope that cures will be discovered for people with sleep disorders.

    Reply
    • Hi there, thank you for your comments! It is true that stress will hinder your sleep. Letting it go is a key to food sleep. Are you tired during the day?

      Reply
      • Yeah. I don’t sleep most nights… If I choose to sleep, I certainly will. But I have a lot to put in order because during the day I won’t have time to put them in order.

        Reply
  23. You have such a friendly website that gave me a feeling of being relaxed while reading your article, you are doing a fine thing helping people with sleep disorders. I just read the other day that sleep disorders are at the top of most people’s complaints when they go to see their primary physician.

    I love your website and I will be back
    Jeff

    Reply

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