Sleeping difficulty is when you have trouble
sleeping at night. It may be hard for you to fall asleep, or you may wake up
several times throughout the night.
Sleep difficulty may affect your physical and
mental health. Lack of sleep may also cause you to have frequent headaches or trouble
Most people experience difficulty sleeping at
some point in their lives. According to the U.S. Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),
almost 30 percent of U.S. adults get six hours of sleep or less every night. Some
people may feel refreshed after only six or seven hours of sleep. However, most
adults need about eight hours of sleep every night to feel rested.
Signs of sleeping difficulty may include an inability
to focus during the day, frequent headaches, irritability, daytime fatigue, waking
up too early, waking up throughout the night, or taking several hours to fall
asleep. You may also experience low energy during the day or have noticeably dark
circles under your eyes.
What Causes Sleeping Difficulties?
There are many possible reasons for
sleeplessness, including your sleeping habits, lifestyle choices, and medical
conditions. Some causes are minor and may improve with self-care, while others
may require you to seek medical attention.
Causes of sleeplessness may include aging, too
much stimulation before bedtime (such as watching television, playing video
games, or exercising), consuming too much caffeine, noise disturbances, an
uncomfortable bedroom, or a feeling of excitement.
Sleeping too much during the day, lack of
exposure to sunlight, frequent urination, physical pain, jet lag, and some
prescription medications may also lead to difficulty sleeping.
Sleeplessness may also occur in infants. It’s
normal for newborns to wake up several times throughout the night. However,
most infants will sleep through the night after they’re 6 months old. If an
older infant is showing signs of sleeplessness, it may be a sign that they are teething,
sick, hungry, or bothered by gas or digestive problems.
For many people, stress, worry, depression,
or work schedules may also affect their sleep. For others, sleep issues are due
to a sleep disorder such as insomnia, sleep apnea, and restless
What Are Sleep Disorders?
Sleep apnea is a condition where there is blockage
in the upper airways. This results in pauses in breathing throughout the night
that may cause you to abruptly wake up, often with a choking sound.
Restless legs syndrome may also trigger
sleeping difficulty. This condition causes uncomfortable sensations in your
legs, such as tingling or aching. These sensations make your legs move frequently
while resting, which can interrupt your sleep.
Delayed sleep phase disorder is another
condition that can affect sleep. This condition causes a delay in the 24-hour
cycle of sleep and wakefulness. You may not feel sleepy or fall asleep until
the middle of the night. This sleep cycle makes it harder for you to wake up in
the early morning and leads to daytime fatigue.
How Are Sleeping Disorders Diagnosed?
You should see a doctor if your sleeping difficulties
are ongoing and affecting your quality of life. They’ll attempt to find the
underlying cause of your sleeplessness by conducting a physical examination and
asking questions about your sleep patterns.
During your appointment, be sure to tell your
doctor about any prescription medications, over-the-counter products, and
herbal supplements that you take. Some medications and supplements cause
overstimulation and can disrupt your sleep if taken too close to bedtime.
You should also mention if you’re
experiencing other problems, such as depression, anxiety, or chronic pain.
These factors may also affect your ability to sleep.
To determine the cause of sleeplessness, your
doctor may recommend that you keep a sleep diary. You should record your entire
day’s activities and sleep habits, such as the time you went to bed, the time
you woke up, the amount of food and the drinks you consumed, your mood, any
medications you took, your activity level, and your quality of sleep.
Keeping a sleep record helps your doctor
pinpoint habits that may trigger sleep issues.
If your doctor suspects you have sleep apnea,
restless legs syndrome, or another sleep disorder, they may schedule a sleep
study test. For this test, you’ll spend the night in a hospital or sleep center.
A sleep specialist will observe you
throughout the night. Your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, oxygen
levels, and brain waves will be monitored for any signs of a sleep disorder.
What Are the Treatment Options for Sleeping Disorders?
Treatment for your sleeplessness depends on
its cause. In some cases, at-home remedies or simple lifestyle changes can
improve the quality of your sleep. You may want to avoid caffeine and alcohol
for at least eight hours before bed. Limit any daytime napping to 30 minutes. Keep
your bedroom dark and cool.
Avoid stimulating activities before bedtime
and allow seven to eight hours for sleep each night. Listening to soothing
music and taking a hot bath before bedtime may also help. Keep a regular sleep
You may also purchase some sleep aids without
a prescription. However, sleep aids can cause daytime drowsiness if you don’t
get a full seven or eight hours of sleep. Also, don’t use these products on a
daily basis, as it may lead to a dependency. Remember to always read the directions
closely and take the medication as directed.
If a medical condition or sleep disorder is
causing your problems, you’ll need treatment for the underlying condition. For
example, if your sleep suffers because of an anxiety disorder or depression,
your doctor may prescribe an antianxiety or antidepressant medication to help
you cope with worry, stress, and feelings of hopelessness.
What Are the Complications Associated with Sleeping Disorders?
If left untreated, chronic sleep problems can
greatly affect your qualify of life. Your reaction time when driving may
decrease, which increases your risk of an accident. Poor sleep quality may also
reduce your performance levels on the job or at school. It may also weaken your
immune system, resulting in more colds and illnesses.