Sleep disorder doesn’t merely imply lack of sleep. Although mostly people present with lack of adequate sleep, there are other problems also. Lack of sleep may present as difficulty in falling asleep where the person would lie on bed but won’t be able to initiate sleep. In other cases, the person would be able to fall asleep but would wake up multiple times during the night. Or else, he would wake up in midnight and would not be able to sleep again. The person may also get sleep but would wake up earlier than usual time. Sometimes, the person would present with the problems in sleep only. But many a times, other problems may be detected on careful observation like worries, anxiety, physical problems, pain etc.
Now moving forward, other form of sleep disorders may present with night terrors. Here the person may suddenly feel fearful and suddenly get up in the middle of the night. He would be sweating profusely and would be very afraid. A person may present with frequent disturbing nightmares also.
There is also something called somnambulism or simply, sleep walking. A person may start walking while still in sleep. He would not respond to those around him. He can also carry out different activities during the sleep walking. And surprisingly, he would not remember anything when asked on waking him up. During the episode, the person may start speaking also without any awareness. This behavior can pose problems to himself and his surrounding people also. Anyone can be harmed during the behavior. If tried to wake up during the episode, the person may get frightened and be confused.
Some patients present with normal total duration of sleep but they sleep at odd times. Eg., they sleep early in the evening and get up at night. Otherwise, they sleep late and stay in bed till noon. A patient may start acting on their dreams. And while they are still doing it in sleep, their bed partner may get hurt due to this behavior.
These all are the manifestations of various sleep disorders which seem to be associated with improper sleep only. But once we start to dig deep, we can find a lot of associated issues and problems which either cause or are caused by sleep disorders. They also affect the normal routine functioning of the sufferer. Due to these sleep problems a person can develop many physical problems also.
In the end, I want to convey that this problem is pretty common in the general population. If we are aware of the manifestations and the consequences, we can help ourselves and our friends and relatives. We can get proper psychiatric help and by adequate treatment can get rid of these disorders.
Dr. Ankit Chaudhary
MBBS, MD (Psychiatry)