If you thought sleep disorders consisted merely of sleeping too much, or too little—you probably don’t know about the rare sleep disorders that can cause you to sleep for up to 21 hours a day–for months! Or about the screening for a bug-bite induced sleep disorder that you’ll want to get if you ever visit Africa.
We’ve all heard of Narcolepsy—a chronic neurologic disorder which is caused by the brain’s inability to control sleep and wakefulness. Narcolepsy often comes hand in hand with a condition called Cataplexy—which causes momentary muscle paralysis associated with emotions like laughter or stress.
And at one point or another, either after too many cups of coffee or a struggle to get back on a correct sleeping schedule after traveling through a different time zone—you might have exaggerated that you now have insomnia. (But really, insomnia is a disorder characterized by the chronic difficulty in falling asleep or in maintaining sleep when no other cause is found for these symptoms. IE: Time zone change, caffeine intake.)
End of story? Not exactly.
There’s a LOT of other possible reasons for your fatigue. Here’s just a few:
- Bruxism: The involuntary grinding or clenching of teeth while asleep.
- Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder (DSPD): Not being able to wake up at a socially acceptable time, but no issues with sleep maintenance. Circadian Rhythm disorders also include Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder (ASPD), Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder, and Irregular Sleep Wake Rhythm.
- Idiopathic Hypersomnia: A chronic neurological disease, similar to narcolepsy, in which there is an increased amount of fatigue and sleep during the day.
- Hypopnea Syndrome: Shallow breathing or slow respiratory rate appears while sleeping.
- Night Terrors: Abrupt awakening from sleep with behavior consistent to with terror.
- Nocturia: Frequent need to urinate at night.
- Parasomnias: Disrupted sleep related events involving inappropriate actions during sleep (Such as sleep-walking and night terrors.)
- Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD): Sudden involuntary movements of arms and legs during sleep.
- Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS): An irresistible urge to move legs.
- Sleep Apnea, Obstructive sleep apnea: Obstruction of the airway during sleep, causing a lack of deep sleep, generally includes snoring.
- Sleep Paralysis: Characterized by temprorary paralysis of the body shortly before or after sleep, can also include hallucinations.
- Sleep Walking: Engaging in activities that are normally associated with wakefulness.
- Somniphobia: Dread or fear of falling asleep or going to bed.
Want to hear about some even stranger sleep disorders? Check out these two rare diseases you won’t see in your local sleep study lab–
LKS is a very rarely occurring illness, affecting a rate of about one in a million. It primarily occurs in adolescent males, but can sometimes be seen in females, and is most commonly found in the United States and Israel. There is no cure, and no treatment proven to improve the syndrome. The disease is characterized by episodic hypersomnia and mood changes. Patients can experience recurrent episodes for more than a decade. Individual episodes last more than a week but less than a month. Sleep episodes can last more than 15 to 21 hours a day.
And African Sleeping Sickness
Generally a result of the bite of a infected tsetse fly, the African Trypanosomiasis is most common in rural areas. First come fevers, headaches, itchiness and joint pains—occurring 1-3 weeks after the bite. Months later, the disease will begin to cause confusion, poor coordination, numbness and trouble sleeping. Fortunately there are treatments including pentamidine or suramin. Eflornithine can help in the second state of the disease, when neurologic symptoms have begun.