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The treatment of sleep disorders is problematic because the diagnoses consist of an array of unrelated terms, there is little knowledge or link to disease processes, and progression from the patient presentation to effective therapy is not systematic. The purpose of this paper is to provide a coherent framework for understanding sleep disorders, based on anatomy and pathophysiology.
A classification of sleep disorders based on classical neurological diagnosis is presented. First, the diagnostic process in classical, clinical neurology is reviewed. In this traditional approach, diagnoses are not inferred directly from symptoms. Rather, symptoms are used to identify putative anatomic localizations, and pathophysiological mechanisms. Diagnoses are inferred as a second step from the localizations and mechanisms of disease. Subsequently, testing may be applied as necessary, using a probabilistic interpretation to guide treatment. Treatment for diseases classified in this manner is more likely to be successful. In addition, be generating alternative hypotheses during this process, if initial treatments are not successful, alternative approaches may be considered.
The anatomy and physiology of sleep disorders is briefly reviewed. The process of diagnosis is then presented, starting with specific symptoms, including insomnia, hypersomnia, limb movement disorders, fatigue and pain syndromes. Groups of symptoms, as syndromes, are considered. By relating the symptoms to the localizations and pathophysiology, a more ordered approach to management is presented. The distinction of etiology from diagnosis is discussed. Etiologies that have resolved are typically not treatable.
Prior research on fibromyalgia is summarized, including possible anatomic and pathophysiological substrates, and underlying sleep disorders. Other forms of fatigue are contrasted, with implications for different treatments.
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