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 report 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
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
- daytime fatigue
- 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
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
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
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
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.
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:
- difficulty concentrating
- weight gain
- impaired work or school performance
Unfortunately, insomnia is extremely common in the United States.
percent of American adults experience it at some point in their lives. The
disorder is most prevalent among older adults and women.
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
- transient, which is when insomnia lasts for just
a few nights at a time
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:
- sleep talking
- teeth grinding or jaw clenching
Restless Leg Syndrome
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.
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
How Are Sleep Disorders Diagnosed?
Your doctor will first perform a physical exam and gather
information about your symptoms and medical history. They will also order
various tests, including:
a sleep study that evaluates oxygen levels, body movements, and brain waves to determine
how they disrupt sleep
a test that assesses electrical activity in the brain and detects any potential
problems associated with this activity
- genetic blood testing: a blood test commonly used
to diagnose narcolepsy and other underlying health conditions that might be
causing sleeping problems
These tests can be crucial in determining the right course of
treatment for sleep disorders.
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
Medical treatment for sleep disturbances might include any of the
- sleeping pills
- melatonin supplements
- allergy or cold medication
- medications for any underlying health issues
- breathing device or surgery (usually for sleep
- a dental guard (usually for teeth grinding)
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
- 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
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
What Is the Outlook for Someone with a Sleep Disorder?
The effects of sleep disorders can be so disruptive that you will
likely want immediate relief. Unfortunately, long-term cases can take a bit
more time to resolve. However, if you stick with your treatment plan and
regularly communicate with your doctor, you can eventually find your way to
better sleep. You may also want to visit the National Sleep Foundation website for
additional resources to share with your doctor.