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Sleep disorders are common and affect about 70 million people. Sleep disorders are a group of conditions that cause sleep impairment. They also make it difficult to get a restful sleep. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than a third of American adults suffer from sleep disorders. It’s normal to have trouble sometimes sleeping due to stress or hectic schedules. If you experience sleep problems that seem to affect your quality of life, it’s a sign of a sleep disorder. With sleep disorders, you either have difficulties falling asleep or feel tired during the day. If sleep disorders are not addressed, they can impact your mood, energy, and concentration. Some sleep disorders will also affect your health in general. Sleep disorders may be due to physical or mental conditions. Treating the underlying cause should resolve the problem.
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Types of Sleep Disorders
There are different types of sleep disorders. They include;
Insomnia is a condition where you have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or both. It is one of the most common sleep disorders. Insomnia can be due to jet lag, anxiety, stress, digestive problems, and hormones. Insomnia could also be a sign of an underlying condition like depression. In addition, insomnia increases your risk of hypertension, diabetes, and obesity.
There are different types of insomnia.
Acute insomnia is the most common and lasts for a few days to a month. It can be caused by stressful events or a change in the environment. Chronic insomnia is more serious—for example, diabetes, acid reflux, or sleep apnea. Onset insomnia can be acute or chronic. It occurs due to things like stress, environmental changes, and stimulants. Maintenance insomnia is when you experience difficulties staying asleep and going back to sleep after waking up.
Sleep apnea is a rather serious medical condition. It causes breathing pauses when you are sleeping due to the body taking in less oxygen. This can result in breathing difficulties that might keep you awake at night.
Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless leg syndrome is where you experience an overwhelming urge to move your legs. A tingling sensation in the legs may accompany it. The symptoms occur during the day but worsen at night. The exact cause of RLS is unknown, but conditions like ADHD and Parkinson’s disease can cause it.
Parasomnias refer to sleep disorders that cause abnormal behaviors during sleep. For example, parasomnias can lead to sleep talking, sleepwalking, groaning, teeth grinding, and even bedwetting.
Narcolepsy is a condition where you get sleep attacks when you are awake. The disorder can also cause sleep paralysis. Narcolepsy doesn’t have a specific cause. However, some neurological disorders like multiple sclerosis increase the risk.
Symptoms of Sleep Disorders
The symptoms of sleep disorders depend on the type of disorder and its severity. The symptoms also vary depending on the underlying cause. Some of the general symptoms include;
- Difficulties falling asleep, staying asleep or both
- Extreme daytime fatigue
- Falling asleep during the day or at the worst possible times like when driving
- Unusual breathing patterns
- An unpleasant urge to move when you are trying to sleep
- Undesirable movements when you are sleeping
- Anxiety and irritability
- Reduced performance at school or work
- Loss of concentration
- Weight gain
Diagnosis of Sleep Disorders
If you suspect that you may have a sleep disorder, the best thing is to see a professional. The doctor will conduct a physical exam and go through your medical history. They will also gather information about your symptoms. They may also order extra tests to rule out underlying medical conditions.
Polysomnography (PSG): This is a sleep study used to test the oxygen levels in your body. It’s also used to test brain waves and body movements. The doctor will then determine how these factors disrupt your sleep.
Electroencephalogram (EEG): An EEG assesses the electrical activity in your brain. The test detects problems in your brain activity that may be causing your sleep problems.
Multiple sleep latency tests (MSLT): This is a daytime study used together with polysomnography. It diagnoses conditions like narcolepsy that may cause sleep disorders.
How to Treat Sleep Disorders
Sleep disorders are treatable. Some sleep disorders clear on their own without requiring treatment. Most treatment options aim at addressing the underlying cause. They include a combination of medications and lifestyle changes.
If you are diagnosed with a sleep disorder, medication may be prescribed. It includes sleeping pills, allergy medications, and melatonin supplements. You may also need to wear a breathing device or undergo surgery to correct the condition. In addition, if you grind your teeth when sleeping, the doctor may recommend using a dental guard.
Sometimes, lifestyle changes can help manage sleep disorders. You can combine these with medication treatments. Lifestyle changes may include;
- Adjusting your diet to include healthier options like fish and vegetables
- Reducing your sugar intake
- Finding ways of dealing with anxiety and stress
- Creating a regular sleep schedule and ensuring that you stick to it
- Minimizing your fluid intake before going to bed
- Limiting your intake of stimulants like caffeine in the afternoon and evenings
- Reducing your alcohol intake and quitting smoking
- Eating smaller portions of low carb meals before heading to bed
- Maintaining a healthy body weight
How to Manage Sleep Disorders
- Create a comfortable sleep environment by making sure that the bedroom is cool, dark, quiet and that the bed is comfortable
- Avoid going when your mind is full of negative thoughts
- Avoid watching TV, eating, working, or using your computer or phone on the bed
- Try and create a regular sleep schedule that you can stick with
- If you are taking a nap, limit it to less than 30 minutes and not later than three in the afternoon
- Stay away from stimulants like coffee or tea and heavy meals before bedtime
- Avoid smoking or drinking alcohol before you go to bed
- Exercise to maintain a healthy body weight
- Find ways of relaxing and dealing with stress and anxiety.
- How much sleep should one get every night? Experts recommend sleeping for at least seven to nine hours every night. Some people may, however, need more or fewer hours.
- Who is at risk of developing sleep disorders? The risk of developing a sleep disorder increases with age. Women are also more likely to experience insomnia than men—some conditions like obesity, anxiety, high blood pressure, and depression increase this risk.
Healthier Me Today is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment, always consult with your healthcare professional. Stay healthy!