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Common Sleep Disorders


Sleep Disorders Center

Lahey Medical Center, Peabody
One Essex Center Drive
Peabody, MA 01960


Sleep apnea is defined as the "inability to breathe properly during sleep".  Obstructive sleep apnea is most commonly caused by a collapse of the airway preventing air from passing into the lungs.  Enlarged tonsils, adenoids or fatty tissue in the throat may cause a blockage or narrowing of the breathing passage.  Loud snoring, choking or gasping for breath during sleep, high blood pressure and excessive sleepiness are all characteristics of obstructive sleep apnea.


Narcolepsy is a neurological disorder manifested by periods of extreme sleepiness (sleep attacks), often beginning in young adulthood.  Terrifying nightmares and hallucinations are symptoms of narcolepsy, which usually occur upon falling asleep and may be accompanied by sleep paralysis.  A person with narcolepsy falls asleep regardless of the activity around them.


RLS and PLMD are disorders involving frequent leg movements and leg jerks during sleep which awaken the individual.  These events might occur hundreds of times at night and prevent quality sleep.  As a result, a person might experience insomnia or excessive daytime sleepiness.


Difficulty initiating sleep or maintaining sleep (DIMS) are characteristics of insomnia resulting from a variety of disorders.  Illness, alcohol or drug abuse, and consistent use of sleeping medications can cause insomnia.  In years past, it was thought that 90 percent of insomnia was caused by psychological problems.  It is now estimated, however, that about 40 to 50 percent of insomnia is related to underlying physical disorders.   Infants and children may not sleep throughout the night, or resist going to bed.  Basic behavioral techniques often are helpful.

Parasomnia is comprised of a group of disorders occurring during sleep, which may be disturbing to patients or to others around them.  The most common parasomnias include frightening nightmares, bedwetting, sleepwalking and night terrors.