If you come to think of it, sleep is an interesting biological function. While sleeping, you are unconscious, but your brain and body functions are all active. Isn’t that simply amazing? Nevertheless, a normal sleep pattern can be compromised and disturbed by sleep disorders. This article will explore the different types, causes, symptoms, and treatments of common sleep disorders.
What Are Sleep Disorders?
Sleep disorders are a group of conditions that disturb normal sleep patterns on a regular basis. Depending on the type of sleep disorder, people may experience the difficulty of sleeping, inability to fall asleep without moving the legs, waking from sleep, and so on.
Whether caused by stress or a health problem, sleep disorders are becoming more common nowadays. In the United States, more than 75 percent of Americans between the age of 20 and 59 report having troubles in sleeping regularly.
What Are The Common Causes of Sleep Disorders?
There are a lot of medical conditions, circumstances, and disorders that can cause disturbances in sleep. In most cases, sleep disorders come as a result of an underlying health condition. There are also times that the cause is unknown. Below are some of the common causes of sleep disorders:
- Heart disease, lung disease, and nerve disorders
- Mental illness like depression and anxiety
- Chronic pain
- Allergies and respiratory problems
- Nocturia or frequent urination at night
- Stress and anxiety
Other factors that can contribute to sleep problems include:
- Caffeine and alcohol
- Exposure to blue light (e.g. electronic devices)
- Irregular sleep schedule, such as working at night
- Old age
Some Major Types of Sleep Disorders
Insomnia is characterized by difficulty in falling and staying asleep at night. This is the most common sleep disorder, and it can be caused by several factors such as stress, anxiety, jet lag, hormones, or digestive problems.
Unfortunately, insomnia is very common in the United States, to the extent that people somewhat accept it as normal condition already.
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea
This is the most common type of sleep apnea. It is characterized by breathing that repeatedly stops and starts during sleep. It happens when something partly or completely obstructs your airway while sleeping, which causes the diaphragm and chest to work harder to open the obstructed airway and bring air into the lungs. A sudden jerk, loud gasp or snort usually accompanies the breathing as it resumes.
OSA can cause a decrease in the flow of oxygen into the vital organs, and it can also lead to irregular heart rhythms.
Hypersomnia is a sleeping disorder that makes a person unable to stay awake during the day. This includes narcolepsy, which causes excessive daytime sleepiness.
These are disturbing sleep disorders that cause abnormal behavior during sleep. Parasomnias include night terrors, nightmares, sleepwalking, sleep talking, bedwetting (sleep enuresis), teeth grinding (sleep bruxism) or jaw clenching, groaning, confusional arousals, and more.
- Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)
RLS is also called Willis-Ekbom disease. It is characterized by an overwhelming desire to move the legs in order to put oneself to sleep. Although these symptoms can occur at day, they are most common at night. Restless leg syndrome is often associated with an underlying medical condition like ADHD and Parkinson’s disease, though the exact cause is still unknown.
What Are The Treatments for Sleep Disorders?
There are different treatments for sleep disorders depending on the type and underlying cause. Treatments may include a combination of medications and lifestyle changes.
Below are some of the medical treatments for sleep disturbances:
- Sleeping pills
- Allergy or cold medication
- Melatonin supplements
- Medications for underlying health condition/s
- Breathing device or surgery (for sleep apnea)
- Dental appliances or oral mandibular advancement devices (for OSA)
- Dental guard (for teeth grinding)
- Bright light therapy (in the morning)
- Nasal sprays if sinus problems or nasal congestion makes it harder for you to sleep
- For OSA, surgery can be an option if there is an extra tissue blocking the airflow through the throat or nose.
Resorting to medical treatments may not be enough. It can also take extra effort from you to embrace a new and healthier lifestyle that can help improve your quality of sleep.
- Reducing sugar intake, and consuming more fish and vegetables
- Engaging in a regular exercise (in the morning or in the afternoon) to help with stress and anxiety
- Avoiding vigorous exercise three hours before bedtime
- Sticking to a regular sleep-wake cycle every day
- Drinking less water at night to prevent a frequent trip to the bathroom
- Avoiding or limiting caffeine, especially in the late afternoon and in the evening
- Reducing alcohol consumption and tobacco use
- Avoiding heavy meals and spicy foods before bedtime
At first, doing these somewhat trivial things may seem like a hard habit to break, but eventually, your body will be able to adjust. And while you may want to reward yourself to sleep longer on the weekends, we suggest that you don’t. It will just make it harder for you to wake up, stay awake, and fall asleep during the work week.