A sleep disorder is a condition where abnormal sleep patterns commonly occur that can negatively affect health. Sleep disorders include insomnia, narcolepsy, sleepwalking, sleep apnea, hypersomnia (excessive sleepiness at inappropriate times), sleeping sickness (disruption of sleep cycle due to infection), sleepwalking, and night terrors
There are a number of things that may cause sleep issues. Common contributors include:
- Physical disturbances (for example, chronic pain from arthritis, headaches, fibromyalgia)
- Age (elderly population tends to have less REM sleep and sleepless hours)
- Medical issues (for example, asthma, obesity)
- Psychiatric disorders (for example, depression and anxiety disorders)
- Environmental issues (for example, it’s too bright, your partner snores)
- Medications (certain medications can alter sleep phases and affect sleep hygiene)
Signs of sleep disorder can present in the following ways:
- Daytime fatigue
- Strong urge to take naps during the day
- Falling asleep at inappropriate times, such as while driving
- Irritability or anxiety
- Lack of concentration
- Breathing in an unusual pattern or feeling an uncomfortable urge to move while you are trying to fall asleep
- Irregular sleep cycle
- Loud or frequent snoring
- Silent pauses in breathing
- Choking or gasping sounds
- Unrefreshing sleep
- Morning headaches
- Nocturia (waking during the night to go to the bathroom)
- Difficulty concentrating
- Memory loss
- Decreased sexual desire
Risk factors are dependant on the category of sleep disorder. Common risk factors for sleep apnea include:
- Excess weight – Your risk for sleep apnea is higher if you are overweight with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or more or obese with a BMI of 30 or higher.
- Large neck size – Your risk for sleep apnea is higher if you have a neck size of 17 inches or more for men, or 16 inches or more for women. A large neck has more soft tissue that can block your airway during sleep.
- Middle age – Sleep apnea can occur at any age. However, it is more common between young adulthood and middle age.
- Male gender – Sleep apnea is more common in men than in women. For women, the risk of sleep apnea increases with menopause.
- Hypertension – High blood pressure is extremely common in people who have sleep apnea.
- Family history – Sleep apnea is a heritable condition. This means that you have a higher risk of sleep apnea if a family member also has it. Inherited traits that increase the risk for sleep apnea include obesity and physical features such as a recessed jaw.
- Other common family factors – such as physical activity and eating habits – also may play a role.
REM Sleep Behavior Disorder most often occurs in men. It can appear at any age, but it most often emerges after men are 50 years old. It is uncommon in women and children. Less than one percent of people have it. It appears more often in the elderly. RBD is also seen more often in people with some neurological disorders. It occurs at a higher rate in people who have one of the following conditions:
- Parkinson’s disease (33%)
- Multiple system atrophy (90%)
Sleep studies are conducted in a laboratory setting and can help diagnose sleep disorders. A sleep technician will place electrodes on your head and body to monitor the different stages of sleep and vital signs.
If you’ve struggled with sleep problems for so long that it seems normal, you can still learn to sleep better. You can start by tracking your symptoms and sleep patterns, and then making healthy changes to your daytime habits and bedtime routine. If self-help doesn’t do the trick, you can turn to our sleep specialists who are trained in sleep medicine. Together, you can identify the underlying causes of your sleeping problem and find ways to improve your quality of life.
There are several steps to avoid sleep disorders:
- Try to go to sleep at the same time each night and get up at the same time each morning.
- Try not to take naps during the day because naps may make you less sleepy at night.
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol late in the day. Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants and can keep you from falling asleep. Alcohol can cause waking in the night and interferes with sleep quality.
- Get regular exercise. Try not to exercise close to bedtime because it may stimulate you and make it hard to fall asleep. Experts suggest not exercising for three hours before the time you go to sleep.
- Don’t eat a heavy meal late in the day.
- Make your sleeping place comfortable. Be sure that it is dark, quiet, and not too warm or too cold. If light is a problem, try a sleeping mask. If noise is a problem, try earplugs, a fan, or a “white noise” machine to cover up the sounds.
- Follow a routine to help you relax and wind down before sleep, such as reading a book, listening to music, or taking a bath.
- Avoid using your bed for anything other than sleep or sex.
- If you can’t fall asleep and don’t feel drowsy, get up and read or do something that is not overly stimulating until you feel sleepy.
- If you have trouble lying awake worrying about things, try making a to-do list before you go to bed. This may help you to avoid focusing on those worries overnight.
If left untreated, sleep disorders can contribute to medical conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, depression, and other ailments. Sleep deprivation also increases your risk of accidents such as automobile collisions caused by falling asleep at the wheel.
As noted above, a lack of sleep can lead to medical conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and depression. Sleep is a vital aspect of a healthy lifestyle. The lack of sleep can lead to a myriad of negative consequences.
Sleep disorders are conditions causing a lack of sleep that can lead to negative health effects. They come in many forms, including sleep apnea, insomnia, restless leg syndrome, or narcolepsy. The consequences of sleep disorders can lead to medical conditions and accidents if not treated properly.