[su_dropcap style=”default” size=”3″ class=””]F[/su_dropcap]or those with sleep disorders, bedtime can be a nightmare—inability to sleep, restless slumbers, even issues during waking hours. The list below outlines several of the most common sleep disorders. If you suspect you have one or show multiple symptoms, talk to your medical provider, so you can find a better night’s rest.
1. Sleep Apnea
According to the Mayo Clinic, sleep apnea is a condition that causes the sleeper to repeatedly stop and start breathing. It is potentially fatal and has many adverse long-term effects on mental and physical health, including heart problems, excessive fatigue, and headaches. Sleep apnea is broken down into two categories: obstructive (when the throat muscles relax) and central (when the brain misses signals to breath).
Symptoms: Those with sleep apnea may have issues staying awake during the day, focusing on tasks, frequent dry mouth, and morning headaches. At night, the person may have trouble falling or staying asleep while also prone to loud snoring and shortness of breath.
Treatment: Doctors diagnose sleep apnea through in-home or in-hospital sleep tests. If confirmed, sleep apnea is typically treated by ensuring that the throat is not obstructed. The most common treatments include lifestyle changes, including weight management, avoidance of sedatives, and a change in sleep position. Some patients are also prescribed a machine to assist in maintaining air pressure while sleeping. In extreme cases, surgery may be required.
2. REM Behavior Disorder, Sleepwalking, and Sleep Talking
REM Behavior Disorder (including less-serious disorders like sleepwalking and sleep-talking) occurs when the body reacts to dream stimuli during REM sleep, causing the body to jerk around, limb movement, or other extreme behaviors. Though more common in children, the National Sleep Foundation finds that anywhere from 1% to 15% of adults may suffer from the disorder to some extent.
Symptoms: Those with REM Behavior Disorder usually exhibit normal waking behaviors, but may have episodes in which they sit up in bed, reenact dreams, talk, move limbs, or actually walk. They often do not wake when waking is attempted nor have memory of these incidences. Additionally, both sleep-walkers and sleep-talkers may scream or behave erratically while sleeping.
Treatment: Apart from adjusting sleep schedules and eliminating stressors, there is no formalized treatment for REM Behavior Disorders. However, some studies have shown that antidepressants or even hypnotics may improve symptoms or even eliminate symptoms. In addition, REM Behavior Disorder can be exacerbated exhaustion, stress, or certain medications; treatment generally centers on changing lifestyle and medication in such circumstances.
3. Narcolepsy and Cataplexy
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, adults need approximately 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night. Those with narcolepsy have limited control over their sleep. Instead, they are plagued with “sleep attacks,” during which the body is unable to control when or where the person falls asleep.
Symptoms: The most common symptom of narcolepsy is cataplexy, when the body’s muscles quickly break down—including buckling of knees, loss of speech (via the jaw), or droopiness of the facial muscles. Others may have hallucinations. Symptoms may also include laughing, crying, or stress.
Treatment: There is no cure for narcolepsy. However, certain medications can make living with narcolepsy safer and more manageable. Relief options include changing sleeping patterns; exercise; avoiding eating, drinking, and taking medications before bed; and weight management.
According to the American Sleep Association, insomnia prevents people from falling or staying asleep. It is classified as primary (insomnia brought on by lifestyle) or secondary (insomnia brought on by a disease or other disorder such as asthma or obesity), and separated into two categories: acute (caused by stress, sickness, or environment) and chronic (longer-lasting and caused by chronic illnesses like depression).
Symptoms: Those with insomnia have excessive tiredness throughout the day, are irritable, and may suffer from a lack of concentration. Waking up and staying awake may also indicate that insomnia is at fault, especially if frequent.
Treatment: Insomnia caused by stress or environmental factors may be treated by combating lifestyle issues; meditation, exercise, and avoiding nighttime distractions may prove effective. However, those with chronic insomnia may require behavioral therapy or medication.
5. Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders
Our circadian, or biological, clocks play a major role in determining when it is time to go to sleep and stay asleep. For those with a circadian rhythm sleep disorder, an inability to find sufficient sleep because of a biological clock issue can result in the body’s sleep patterns becoming interrupted. There are several types of the disorder including extrinsic (chronic jet lag, Shift Work Disorder) and intrinsic (Delayed or Advanced Sleep Phase Disorder, or Non-24 Hour Sleep Disorder).
Symptoms: Each Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorder (CRSD) has its own symptoms and causes. For example, Non-24 Hour Sleep Disorder is typically found in populations of the blind, in which the body cannot physical decipher between light and dark; therefore often fall asleep later and later in the day. However, in all cases of CRSD, the main symptom is falling asleep at an “off” period of time and the inability to stay asleep at night.
Treatment: For cases such as Shift Work Disorder or Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder, a simple change to bedtime routines may solve the problem. This includes using the bed only for sleeping or intercourse, avoiding caffeine at night, or developing a sleep routine. However, those with excessive forms of CRSD may need medication, behavioral treatment, or chronotherapy (sleep therapy).
Maintaining Sleep Health
Hearing that you may have a sleep disorder can be frightening, but it does not have to be a permanent sentence for sleepless nights or tons of medication. By establishing good sleep behaviors and rituals and by avoiding the temptations that prevent good sleeping habits, your path to a good’s night sleep and overall sleep health can begin tonight.
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