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Sleep Disorders

A disturbance of normal sleep patterns.

PubMed Health Glossary
(Source: NIH - National Cancer Institute)

About Sleep Disorders

There are a number of sleep disorders that range from trouble falling asleep, to nightmares, sleepwalking, and sleep apnea (problems with breathing that cause loud snoring). Poor sleep may also be caused by diseases such as heart disease, lung disease, or nerve disorders. NIH - National Cancer Institute

What works? Research summarized

Evidence reviews

Melatonin for sleep disorders in visually impaired children

Melatonin is widely used for management of sleep disorders in children with poor or no vision. The current review planned to examine studies on the use of melatonin in these children to determine whether this drug is effective for improving their sleep (safety is not mentioned in objectives or abstract and adverse effects is a secondary outcome). We only wanted to use studies where the children had been randomly allocated to a treatment group and a control group that got no treatment or another medication or a placebo. We did not find any of these studies that were suitable to be included in our review and so we are unable to draw any conclusions about whether or not melatonin improves sleep for visually impaired children. To find out, we need appropriately designed clinical trials. Due to lack of knowledge about best practice in the use of melatonin with these children, it would be useful to have researchers involved who are experienced in sleep disorders and in evidence‐based practice research. In addition, studies involving more than one location would be beneficial to increase the number of children being evaluated and make it more likely we will reach solid conclusions about whether melatonin works for this group of children, as well as details about the most effective dosage and timing of the treatment.

Bright light therapy for sleep problems in adults aged 60+

Sleep problems become more common with age, affect quality of life for individuals and their families, and can increase healthcare costs. Older people are often prescribed a range of drugs for their health problems (including with sleep) many of which have side effects. This review considered the effectiveness of bright light treatment (also known as phototherapy). This aims to improve sleep by restoring the disturbed cycle of circadian rhythms found in some people with sleep problems by the administration of very high doses of fluorescent light for periods of around two hours a day. Reviewers found no trials on which to base conclusions for the effectiveness of this treatment.

Physical exercise as a treatment for sleep problems in older people

Sleep problems become more common with age, affect quality of life for individuals and their families, and can increase healthcare costs. Older people are often prescribed a range of drugs for their health problems (including with sleep) many of which have side effects. This review considered the effectiveness of a programme of physical exercise involving brisk walking and moderate resistance training tailored for the needs of the older adult. These reviewers report that evidence from one small trial is encouraging, and further research is needed.

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Summaries for consumers

Sleep Disorders (PDQ®): Patient Version

Expert-reviewed information summary about causes and management of sleep disorders in people with cancer.

Melatonin for sleep disorders in visually impaired children

Melatonin is widely used for management of sleep disorders in children with poor or no vision. The current review planned to examine studies on the use of melatonin in these children to determine whether this drug is effective for improving their sleep (safety is not mentioned in objectives or abstract and adverse effects is a secondary outcome). We only wanted to use studies where the children had been randomly allocated to a treatment group and a control group that got no treatment or another medication or a placebo. We did not find any of these studies that were suitable to be included in our review and so we are unable to draw any conclusions about whether or not melatonin improves sleep for visually impaired children. To find out, we need appropriately designed clinical trials. Due to lack of knowledge about best practice in the use of melatonin with these children, it would be useful to have researchers involved who are experienced in sleep disorders and in evidence‐based practice research. In addition, studies involving more than one location would be beneficial to increase the number of children being evaluated and make it more likely we will reach solid conclusions about whether melatonin works for this group of children, as well as details about the most effective dosage and timing of the treatment.

Bright light therapy for sleep problems in adults aged 60+

Sleep problems become more common with age, affect quality of life for individuals and their families, and can increase healthcare costs. Older people are often prescribed a range of drugs for their health problems (including with sleep) many of which have side effects. This review considered the effectiveness of bright light treatment (also known as phototherapy). This aims to improve sleep by restoring the disturbed cycle of circadian rhythms found in some people with sleep problems by the administration of very high doses of fluorescent light for periods of around two hours a day. Reviewers found no trials on which to base conclusions for the effectiveness of this treatment.

See all (67)

Terms to know

Insomnia
Difficulty in going to sleep or getting enough sleep.
Narcolepsy
A sleep disorder characterized by a tendency for excessive sleepiness during the day which occurs even after adequate sleep in the nighttime.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
A sleep disorder that is marked by pauses in breathing of 10 seconds or more during sleep, and causes unrestful sleep. Symptoms include loud or abnormal snoring, daytime sleepiness, irritability, and depression.
Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)
A condition that occurs while resting or lying in bed; it is characterized by an irresistible urgency to move the legs to obtain relief from a strange and uncomfortable sensation in the legs.
Sleep
A natural and periodic state of rest during which consciousness of the world is suspended.

More about Sleep Disorders

Photo of an adult

Also called: Sleep disturbances

See Also: Sleep Studies, Sleep Deprivation

Other terms to know: See all 5
Insomnia, Narcolepsy, Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

Related articles:
Sleep Disorders in Cancer Patients

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