Insomnia, restless legs syndrome, narcolepsy, and sleep apnea are all common sleep disorders that can impact every aspect of your life. Having a sleep disorder may affect your safety, relationships, school, work performance, thinking, mental health, weight, and the development of diabetes and heart disease. Poor sleep can also harm your quality of life.
What exactly is a sleep disorder?
Sleep disorders are conditions that interfere with or prevent you from getting enough restful sleep, resulting in daytime sleepiness and other symptoms. Everyone can have sleep problems from time to time. You may have a sleep disorder if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Frequently have trouble sleeping.
- Even though you slept for at least seven hours the night before, you are frequently tired during the day.
- You have a diminished or impaired ability to engage in regular daytime activities.
How many different kinds of sleep disorders are there?
There are roughly 80 different kinds of sleep disorders. The most common are:
Sleep apnea: Sleep apnea is a potentially fatal sleep disorder in which a person’s breathing is disrupted while sleeping. Untreated sleep apnea causes people to stop repeatedly breathing during the night.
Insomnia: Insomnia is a sleep disorder in which people struggle to fall or stay asleep. Insomnia varies in duration and frequency of occurrence. Insomnia can be temporary (acute or adjustment) or chronic. It can also come and go during periods when a person has no sleep problems.
Narcolepsy: A neurological sleep regulation disorder called narcolepsy affects the ability to control both sleep and wakefulness. Narcolepsy causes excessive daytime sleepiness and occasional, involuntary episodes of falling asleep throughout the day.
Restless legs syndrome (RLS): RLS is a sleep disorder characterised by an extreme, frequent uncontrollable urge to move legs. RLS generally occurs in the late afternoon or early evening, making it challenging to fall asleep and stay asleep. It has been linked to daytime sleepiness, irritability, and poor concentration.
How much sleep is required?
Not everyone requires the same amount of sleep, but adults, on average, require 7-9 hours of sleep per day. Babies and young children need significantly more rest, but sleep necessities remain relatively stable until adolescence.
- Babies require at least 14 hours of sleep per day, which includes multiple sleep periods throughout the day.
- Infants and toddlers should sleep at least 11-12 hours per day, with daytime naps continuing until they are two to three years old.
- Children in preschool should sleep at least 10 to 13 hours
- Primary school age requires at least 9 to 11 hours.
- Teenagers – As they age, their sleep (and wake) times become later, but they still require 8 to 10 hours of sleep per day.
What happens when an individual does not get enough sleep?
Not getting enough or good quality sleep causes more than just tiredness. Sleepiness impairs cognitive function, resulting in learning disabilities in children, memory impairment in adults, personality changes, and depression.
People who are sleep deprived have difficulty making decisions, are irritable, perform poorly, and have slower reaction times, putting them at risk for automobile and work-related accidents. Sleep deprivation can also cause the onset of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
What factors contribute to sleep disorders?
Various factors can contribute to a sleep disorder. Although the causes vary, the result of all sleep disorders is a disturbance or exaggeration of the body’s normal cycle of deep sleep and daytime wakefulness. Sleep disorders can be caused by a variety of factors, including:
- Other diseases like heart disease, lung disease, nerve disorders, and pain
- Mental illnesses, such as anxiety and depression
- Sometimes there is no known cause
Some other factors that can contribute to sleep problems include:
- Caffeine and alcoholic beverages
- Working an irregular schedule, such as the night shift
- Ageing. People often get less sleep or spend less time in the deep, restful sleep stage as they age. They can also easily be woken up
How is sleep disorder identified?
Talk to your healthcare provider about your symptoms if you think you might have a sleep disorder. They can conduct a physical examination and assist you in identifying the sleep-related issues you are experiencing. Maintaining a sleep logbook for two weeks may be beneficial to your doctor. The healthcare provider may prescribe tests to rule out other conditions because certain diseases can interfere with sleep.
Your healthcare provider might suggest you visit a sleep disorder clinic if they have reason to suspect you have a sleep disorder. A sleep specialist will examine your symptoms and may advise you to have a sleep study.
The sleep study is a procedure in which specific physical activities that occur while you sleep are electronically transmitted and recorded. For some patients, a sleep study (also known as a home-based sleep study) can be performed. Qualified healthcare professionals use the recordings as data to analyse whether or not you have a sleep disorder.
What treatments are available for sleep disorders?
Healthcare providers recommend a variety of treatments, including:
- Counselling: Cognitive behaviour therapy is recommended by some sleep specialists. This type of counselling assists you in “recognising, challenging, and changing stress-inducing thoughts” that can keep you awake during the night.
- Medications or nutritional supplements
- Maintaining a regular sleep schedule
- Exercise regularly.
- Reduce background noise.
- Minimise light.
- Adjust the temperature to your preference.
Your healthcare provider will make treatment recommendations based on your specific situation.
A message from the Heartscope Specialist Group
Sleep problems may not be fatal, but they negatively impact your quality of life. They can impair your ability to think clearly, manage weight, perform well at work or school, and maintain good mental and physical health. Common sleep disorders such as narcolepsy, insomnia, restless legs syndrome, and sleep apnea keep you from getting the long, deep sleep you require to perform effectively.
If you’re having trouble sleeping, do not be afraid to see your doctor. Your health, and thus your quality of life, is dependent on getting enough sleep. Additionally, the Heartscope Specialist Group helps patients create a strategy for dealing with their sleep disorder. Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions and practice good sleep hygiene.