Sleep Medicine is a special interest which can be pursued by doctors from a number of different specialties including Anesthesiology, Family Medicine, Internal Medicine, Neurology, Otolaryngology, Pediatrics, or Psychiatry. This doctor has expertise in the evaluation and management of clinical conditions that occur during sleep such as bruxism (grinding teeth), narcolepsy, snoring and sleep apnea, night terrors, restless legs syndrome, and others that disturb sleep. In addition, they have skilled expertise in comprehensive polysomnography and the management of a sleep laboratory.
Research studies done in the recent years have stressed the importance of adequate and quality sleep for the optimal functioning of the human body. Reports of accidents and disasters occurring secondary to sleep deprivation have further increased the focus on Sleep Medicine in the recent years. Sleep Medicine is now a big field that tackles various topics relating to sleep physiology. These include:
- Insomnia - Insomnia is the difficulty in initiating sleep or in staying asleep. Many people suffer from insomnia due to diverse reasons. Insomnia can be due to stress, anxiety, problems, depression, medications, diet, activity, among other reasons.
- Hypersomnia - Hypersomnia is excessive sleeping. It can be due to over fatigue, depression, narcolepsy, medications, or other medical disorders.
- Sleep Apnea - Sleep Apnea is the periodic cessation of breathing during sleep. The two most common types of sleep apnea are obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea happens because of the restrictive anatomy of the throat. As the throat muscles relax during sleep, the passage of air gets narrower until it is blocked. This condition is often manifested by the snoring of an individual.
- Parosomnia - Parasomnias are abnormalities in the function of the brain that happens during sleep. Parasomnias can involve nightmares, sleep talking, sleep walking, sleep paralysis, confusional arousal, and many other abnormalities.
- Sleep-wake disorder - Sleep-wake disorders are disturbances in the circadian rhythm, which is responsible for regulating the cycle of sleep. Sleep-wake disorders commonly happen in people who travel from one time zone to another (jet lag) and in people who work night-shifts or those who work for 24 hours without sleeping.
- Sleep-related movement disorder - Sleep-related movement disorders include restless leg syndrome, bruxism (or teeth grinding), night cramps, and other rhythmic movements during sleep.