People who experience difficulty falling asleep or wake up feeling unrefreshed and tired may suspect that their problems stem from insomnia. Often, this disrupted sleep is related to underlying health conditions. Sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, anxiety and depression are all insomnia-related disorders that can significantly disrupt normal sleep patterns.
Sleep Apnea and Insomnia
Sleep apnea, like many insomnia-related disorders, is a type of sleep disorder. A person with sleep apnea experiences frequent pauses in breathing during sleep. Each time breathing stops, the brain is partially aroused from sleep to restart breathing. Sleep apnea causes fragmented, non-restorative sleep.
Sleep apnea is a common cause of insomnia, and the two conditions are frequently confused. People suffering from sleep apnea are usually unaware of the condition. The snoring, grunting and snorting that can accompany sleep apnea often go unnoticed by the sleeper, who rarely fully awakens.
Sleep apnea can cause serious health complications. The risk of high blood pressure, heart attacks, diabetes and stroke increases in people with sleep apnea.
Restless Leg Syndrome and Insomnia
Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a neurological disorder that causes a person to feel an irresistible urge to move their legs. Someone with restless leg syndrome experiences tingling, burning or creeping sensations in their legs that can only be relieved with movement.
RLS symptoms occur at any time of day, but are often worst at night, especially when lying down. People with restless leg syndrome frequently complain of insomnia.
Restless leg syndrome is related to periodic limb movement disorder, which causes the limbs to jerk during sleep. The two disorders are often seen together, increasing the risk of insomnia.
Depression, Anxiety and Insomnia
Insomnia-related disorders also include anxiety and depression. Anxiety and insomnia are often seen together. Worry and stress cause anxiety, which can lead to insomnia and sleep deprivation. Depression symptoms often cause sleep problems, including both insomnia and excessive sleep.
Depression, anxiety and insomnia appear to be interrelated. Anxiety and depression are both known causes of insomnia. However, symptoms of depression or anxiety may also be triggered by sleep deprivation.
Depression appears to result in light sleep with frequent awakenings. The depressed individual may not have difficulty falling asleep, but the sleep he or she gets is fragmented and not restful. Anxiety and insomnia, however, follow different patterns. People with anxiety often have difficultly falling asleep. Once asleep, however, people with anxiety problems sleep normally.
Insomnia-Related Disorders and Insomnia Symptoms
When considering insomnia-related disorders, it’s important to remember that insomnia is often a symptom of an underlying condition. Sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, anxiety and depression are only a few possible insomnia-related disorders that disrupt sleep. Chronic insomnia should always be reported to a health professional so that the root cause of sleep difficulties can be determined.
Duke University Health System. (2010). A vicious cycle: Insomnia, anxiety, and depression. Retrieved September 2, 2010, from http://www.dukehealth.org/health_library/health_articles/a_vicious_cycle.
National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. (2010). Sleep apnea. Retrieved September 2, 2010, from http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/SleepApnea/SleepApnea_WhatIs.html.
Restless Leg Syndrome Foundation. (n.d.). What is RLS? Retrieved September 2, 2010, from http://www.rls.org/Page.aspx?pid=477.