What Are Sleep Disorders?
Sleep disorders are a group of conditions that affect the ability to sleep well on a regular basis. Whether they are caused by a health problem or by too much stress, sleep disorders are becoming increasingly common in the United States. In fact, more than 75 percent of Americans between ages 20 and 59 reports having sleeping difficulties fairly regularly.
Most people occasionally experience sleeping problems due to stress, hectic schedules, and other outside influences. However, when these issues begin to occur on a regular basis and interfere with daily life, they may indicate a sleeping disorder.
Depending on the type of sleep disorder, people may have a difficult time falling asleep and may feel extremely tired throughout the day. The lack of sleep can have a negative impact on energy, mood, concentration, and overall health.
In some cases, sleep disorders can be a symptom of another medical or mental health condition. These sleeping problems may eventually go away once treatment is obtained for the underlying cause. When sleep disorders aren’t caused by another condition, treatment normally involves a combination of medical treatments and lifestyle changes.
It’s important to receive a diagnosis and treatment right away if you suspect you might have a sleep disorder. When left untreated, the negative effects of sleep disorders can lead to further health consequences. They can also affect your performance at work, cause strain in relationships, and impair your ability to perform daily activities.
What Are the Symptoms of Sleep Disorders?
Symptoms can differ depending on the severity and type of sleeping disorder. They may also vary when sleep disorders are a result of another condition.
However, general symptoms of sleep disorders include:
difficulty falling or staying asleep
strong urge to take naps during the day
irritability or anxiety
lack of concentration
What Causes Sleep Disorders?
There are many conditions, diseases, and disorders that can cause sleep disturbances. In many cases, sleep disorders develop as a result of an underlying health problem.
Allergies and Respiratory Problems
Allergies, colds, and upper respiratory infections can make it challenging to breathe at night. The inability to breathe through your nose can also cause sleeping difficulties.
Nocturia, or frequent urination, may disrupt your sleep by causing you to wake up during the night. Hormonal imbalances and diseases of the urinary tract may contribute to the development of this condition. (Be sure to call your doctor right away if frequent urination is accompanied by bleeding or pain.)
Constant pain can make it difficult to fall asleep. It might even wake you up after you fall asleep. Some of the most common causes of chronic pain include:
chronic fatigue syndrome
inflammatory bowel disease
continuous lower back pain
In some cases, chronic pain may even be exacerbated by sleep disorders. For instance, doctors believe the development of fibromyalgia might be linked to sleeping problems.
Stress and Anxiety
Stress and anxiety often have a negative impact on sleep quality. It can be difficult for you to fall asleep or to stay asleep. Nightmares, sleep talking, or sleepwalking may also disrupt your sleep.
What Are the Different Types of Sleep Disorders?
There are numerous different types of sleep disorders. Some may be caused by other underlying health conditions.
Insomnia refers to the inability to fall asleep or to remain asleep. It can be caused by jet lag, stress and anxiety, hormones, or digestive problems. It may also be a symptom of another condition. Insomnia can be very problematic for your overall health and quality of life, potentially causing:
impaired work or school performance
Insomnia is usually classified as one of three types:
chronic, which is when insomnia happens on a regular basis for at least one month
intermittent, which is when insomnia occurs periodically
transient, which is when insomnia lasts for just a few nights at a time
Sleep apnea is characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep. This is a serious medical condition that causes the body to take in less oxygen. It can also cause you to wake up during the night.
Parasomnias are a class of sleep disorders that cause abnormal movements and behaviors during sleep. They include:
teeth grinding or jaw clenching
Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is an overwhelming need to move the legs. This urge is sometimes accompanied by a tingling sensation in the legs. While these symptoms can occur during the day, they are most prevalent at night. RLS is often associated with certain health conditions, including ADHD and Parkinson’s disease, but the exact cause isn’t always known.
Narcolepsy is characterized by “sleep attacks” that occur during the day. This means that you will suddenly feel extremely tired and fall asleep without warning. The disorder can also cause sleep paralysis, which may make you physically unable to move right after waking up. Although narcolepsy may occur on its own, it is also associated with certain neurological disorders, such as multiple sclerosis.
How Are Sleep Disorders Treated?
Treatment for sleep disorders can vary depending on the type and underlying cause. However, it generally includes a combination of medical treatments and lifestyle changes.
Medical treatment for sleep disturbances might include any of the following:
allergy or cold medication
medications for any underlying health issues
breathing device or surgery (usually for sleep apnea)
a dental guard (usually for teeth grinding)
Find the Best Medications for Insomnia »
Lifestyle adjustments can greatly improve your quality of sleep, especially when they’re done along with medical treatments. You may want to consider:
incorporating more vegetables and fish into your diet, and reducing sugar intake
reducing stress and anxiety by exercising
creating and sticking to a regular sleeping schedule
drinking less water before bedtime
limiting your caffeine intake, especially in the late afternoon or evening
decreasing tobacco and alcohol use
eating smaller low carbohydrate meals before bedtime
Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day can also significantly improve your sleep quality. While you might be tempted to sleep in on the weekends, this can make it more difficult to wake up and fall asleep during the workweek.