If you're dealing with a sleep disorder, it can be incredibly disruptive to your daily life. Sleep problems don't only cause trouble during the night either; some sleep problems happen during the day time and can disrupt your work or relationships with others.
What are sleep disorders?
Put in the most basic terms, a sleep disorder is anything that causes a disruption to your daily sleep patterns. These disturbances can range in severity and may be experienced as part of another health condition you're facing.
What are the symptoms of sleep disorders?
Because of the varied nature that sleep disorders can manifest in, and the potential for an underlying condition to play a role in your trouble sleeping, there are a variety of symptoms that may play a role in getting diagnosed with one of any major sleep disorders. That being said, the following symptoms of sleep disorders have been found by the National Sleep Foundation to be cause for concern and may necessitate discussing your symptoms with a health care provider or sleep specialist.
- Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
- Daytime sleepiness, especially excessive daytime sleepiness
- Waking up frequently
- Poor sleep quality
- Trouble concentrating
- Nightmares or night terrors
What causes sleep disorders?
The causes of sleep disorders are often as varied as the symptoms and disorders themselves. In some cases, a sleep disorder is caused by a medical condition, while other times physical issues or mental issues are to blame. Side effects from medication are also a common sleep disorder cause. Environmental problems and your quality of life may also play a role in how your circadian rhythm is affected.
- Chronic pain such as arthritis
- Headaches, particularly migraines
- Obstructive sleep apnea or other breathing issues
- The irresistible urge to urinate, causing frequent trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night
- Anxiety disorders
- Other mental health issues
- Snoring partner
- Too much light in your bedroom
- Loud noises outside your home
- Major lifestyle changes, such as a divorce or demanding new job
Common Types of Sleep Disorders
Sleep disorders can affect men and women of all ages, including adolescents and children, as well as adults. Pregnant women may also face some of the issues outlined below, which can be problematic since it's important that they get enough sleep while carrying a baby.
Insomnia is one of the most frequently diagnosed sleep disorders of any on this list. Insomnia is characterized by struggles falling asleep or staying asleep. It may also be caused by anxiety, stress, jet lag, or even digestive issues like heartburn. If untreated, chronic insomnia can also cause other health problems. Depression is one of the most common psychiatric disorders to accompany insomnia, although a lack of concentration and weight gain can also be linked to it. Insomnia can also cause worse performance at school or work, as well as slowing your reaction time.
Sleep apnea is one of the most severe sleep disorders on this list because it is characterized by pauses in your breathing while sleeping. Obstructive sleep apnea is especially dangerous since it poses life-threatening complications like death if an airway stays "shut off" during a fit of apnea.
Restless Leg Syndrome
Althoughrestless leg syndrome can occur during the daytime as well, if it happens during the nighttime, it can interfere with sleep. Also known as RLS, restless leg syndrome sometimes manifests as a tingling feeling in your legs. RLS may also be linked with ADHD, but the causes aren't completely understood.
Narcolepsy is another more severe sleep disorder. It is characterized by intensive sleep attacks during the daytime that cause you to fall asleep immediately and uncontrollably. If unchecked, narcolepsy can be very dangerous. When you wake, sometimes you will also experience sleep paralysis, which is when you can't move some of your limbs for a period of time after waking up.
How are sleep disorders diagnosed?
Sleep disorders can be diagnosed in a variety of ways, and usually require a specialist who is able to conduct a sleep study. Generally, you will receive your physical exam in a sleep center, which allows doctors to monitor different physiological indicators using a polysomnogram. Polysomnograms measure your brain waves as well as oxygen levels and movements. You may also participate in a sleep study run by a specialist who is able to analyze electric activity in your brain. If you are suspected of having narcolepsy, a blood test may be performed, too. In some situations, a doctor may ask you to keep a sleep diary to track your sleepiness each morning or to track anything keeping you up at bedtime. This sort of information can help a doctor better understand your circadian rhythm, as well as any particular behaviors or other factors contributing to or interfering with quality sleep. For example, a caregiver might realize that after regular exercise you feel more sleepy, which could help them suggest less invasive treatment options, even for chronic sleep disorders.
How are sleep disorders treated?
If you are experiencing serious complications as a result of sleep deprivation or other chronic sleep disorders, it's important to seek medical treatment. The treatment of sleep disorders involves a variety of different treatment options, all of which can be tailored to fit you and your disorder.
Stress and feelings of anxiety are often at play in a sleep disorder and can negatively affect the amount of sleep as well as the amount of REM sleep that you get. REM sleep is important for helping control mood, learning, and memory, all of which also play a role in how you handle stress. As a result, finding a way to treat these issues often has twofold benefits for individuals with sleep disorders. A simple relaxation technique is one way to help decrease stress at bedtime. You can choose a technique that fits your own personal preferences, but the most important things to focus on are a methodology that gives you a calming sensation.
Depending on the severity of your condition, it may be necessary to have a doctor prescribe you with sleep medicine. These sorts of medications need to be taken very seriously, since they can have dangerous side effects and increase your risk of death or injury. If you feel that you need to use sleep medicine, make sure to consult with your doctor first and discuss any concerns you may have.
Find natural relief
Good sleep hygiene doesn't need to require medication. Even simple supplements like melatonin can help you increase your body's natural melatonin and serotonin levels and help you to feel more sleepy. Melatonin can be purchased over the counter without a prescription, making it a convenient natural supplement to use if you have trouble falling asleep. Eliminating caffeine before bedtime is another strategy to help lower your heart rate, and could ultimately result in lowering your high blood pressure, too.