Without sufficient, good-quality sleep, you may suffer from more than just fatigue. Sleepiness is related to a number of problems including depression, anxiety, irritability, decreased cognitive functioning and memory, and slower reaction times, which can cause motor-vehicle crashes and workplace errors. It can also lead to chronic conditions like obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.

An estimated 50 to 70 million adults in the United States have a sleep or wakefulness disorder. Sleep problems like insomnia, obstructive sleep apnea, Restless Legs Syndrome and narcolepsy have significant impacts on overall health and quality of life. The sleep specialists affiliated with Memorial Hermann are experienced in diagnosing, treating and managing a wide range of sleep disorders and can identify and help resolve these conditions.


Insomnia is a common sleep disorder where people have a hard time falling or staying asleep, even though they have adequate opportunities for sleep. This condition can be either short-term or chronic. Short-term insomnia may be related to an illness, or stressful situations like losing a job or the death of a loved one. In addition, environmental factors like noise or light in the bedroom may lead to periods of insomnia.

Approximately 10% to 15% of people suffer from chronic insomnia, where they have symptoms 3 or more times each week for at least 3 months. Chronic insomnia often occurs along with another disorder, including depression, anxiety or chronic pain. Substance abuse can also lead to insomnia.

Symptoms of insomnia include:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Staying asleep for only short periods of time
  • Waking too early

Sleep-Related Breathing Disorders (Sleep Apneas)

Certain sleep disorders affect the ability to breathe during sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type of sleep-related breathing disorder.

What is Sleep Apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that occurs when breathing is interrupted during sleep. With uncontrolled sleep apnea, people stop breathing repeatedly throughout their sleep cycle. Disrupted breathing causes oxygen deprivation which has negative health effects on many different parts of the body, including the heart and brain.

Snoring is the most common symptom of sleep apnea. In addition to snoring, some patients experience other symptoms like awakening during the night while gasping or choking, daytime sleepiness, high blood pressure, headaches, weight gain, depression or anxiety. Sleep apnea can also have a negative impact on a bed partner’s sleep quality.

Types of Sleep Apnea

Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type of sleep apnea. When OSA patients inhale while sleeping, the throat muscles relax, and air passages narrow and may become blocked. This causes a constant stopping and starting of breathing. When the brain senses this is occurring, it sends a signal to the body to wake up in order to get more oxygen. This is why OSA patients frequently snore or awaken during the night while choking or gasping for air.

Several conditions may put you at higher risk of developing OSA:

  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Narrowed airways or chronic nasal congestion
  • Male gender

Central sleep apnea is a central nervous system disorder that does not involve a blocked airway. With CSA, the effort to breathe is impaired. This causes periodic cessation of breathing similar to OSA.

This condition occurs when someone has both obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea.

Central Disorders of Hypersomnolence (Narcolepsy-like Syndromes)

Excessive sleepiness, also called hypersomnolence, affects millions of Americans. Patients with these disorders may fall asleep at inconvenient times or may feel tired even when they have slept for a sufficient number of hours. Hypersomnia can occur on its own (with no known cause) or can be caused by an underlying medical condition.

Types of Hypersomnolence

People with narcolepsy may experience extreme sleepiness and sudden attacks of sleep.

KLS is a rare sleep disorder that primarily affects adolescent males. It involves recurrent episodes of needing to sleep much longer than normal.

This rare sleep disorder causes an extreme need to sleep during the day and occurs over an extended period of time.

Circadian Rhythm Sleep-Wake Disorders (Irregular Sleep Wake Cycles)

These sleep disorders involve irregular sleep-wake cycles. Patients do not sleep at “normal” times during the night and have an abnormal circadian rhythm (the body’s “internal clock”). With a sleep-wake disorder, patients may have a hard time falling asleep, may wake up several times during a sleep cycle, or may wake up too early in the morning. Common types of circadian-rhythm disorders are jet lag and shift-work disorder.

Parasomnias (Sleep Walking, Sleep Talking)

These disorders involve abnormal occurrences or movements that can happen in different parts of the sleep cycle. Parasomnias may occur while falling asleep, sleeping or while waking up. Examples of parasomnias are sleep talking, sleep walking, nightmares, sleep terrors, sleep-related eating disorder and sleep paralysis. Although the events happen while asleep, a bed partner may assume the person is awake because of the active nature of some parasomnias.

Sleep Related Movement Disorders (Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS))

Sleep Related Movement Disorders (Restless Legs Syndrome, RLS) causes uncomfortable sensations in the legs or feet and an uncontrollable urge to move them. RLS typically occurs in the evening or overnight, while people are resting or sleeping. Getting up and moving around may temporarily improve the uncomfortable feelings, but they often reoccur when you return to bed. This movement disorder is more common among women and affects about 7% to 10% of Americans.

Sleep Study

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