Sleep disorders are medical conditions that regularly affect a person’s ability to have a good sleep. They can be caused by an underlying health problem or stress and anxiety in our daily life. Sleep disorders are not uncommon, as they affect about 15-20% of the population, according to various research studies. Beside the unpleasant nature of a disturbed sleeping pattern, sleep disorders have also been linked to a number of health conditions, such as depression, diabetes, hypertension and several cancers.
Most people experience occasional sleeping problems at some point in their life, which are usually stress related. In cases where these issues start to occur on a regular basis, it may be a sign of the presence of a sleep disorder. Depending on the sort of sleep disorder, people may have difficulties falling asleep and consequently may feel very tired throughout the day. As talked about in a previous post, the lack of sleep can have a negative impact on our energy, our ability to concentrate, our mood, and our overall health. In some cases, sleep disorders can be caused by another underlying health condition and the subsequent treatment often demands lifestyle changes in addition to medical treatments. Unfortunately, many people with sleep disorders never get diagnosed, which can lead to even greater health issues and adversely affects the daily life. Depending on type and severity of the sleep disorder or any underlying health condition, the symptoms may differ. Often observed symptoms are difficulties to fall asleep, daytime fatigue and a strong urge to take naps during the day, irritability and anxiety, as well as lack of concentration, and in some cases even depression. Sleep disorders can develop as a result of allergies and respiratory problems, nocturia (frequent urination), chronic pain (arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, continuous lower back pain, persistent headaches), as well as stress and anxiety. Furthermore, sleep walking and nightmares may also disrupt our sleep.
There are different sorts of sleep disorders, which we address in a bit more detail: Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep or to stay asleep and can be very problematic for one’s overall health and quality of life. Insomnia is one of the most common sleep disorders and can be chronic (on a regular basis), intermittent (periodically) or transient (only a few nights). Another disorder is Sleep Apnea, which is characterized by pauses in breathing during the sleep. Sleep Apnea is a serious health condition causing our body to take in less oxygen. Parasomnias are sleep disorders that cause abnormal behavior and body movements during the sleep, such as sleepwalking, bedwetting or teeth grinding. Narcolepsy are sleep attacks occurring during the day. Affected people suddenly feel extremely tired and can fall asleep in an instant. This disorder can cause Sleep Paralysis, which can hinder a person from physically moving after waking up. There is a suggested association between Narcolepsy and Multiple Sclerosis. People who are affected by RLS (Restless Leg Syndrome) experience a constant need to move their legs, which is often accompanied by a tingling sensation in the legs. These symptoms can also occur during the day, but they are more commonly observed at night time. RLS is often linked to ADHD and Parkinson’s disease.
As touched upon earlier, sleep disorders are often treated by a combination of medicines and lifestyle changes. The former may include sleeping pills, melatonin supplements, a breathing device or surgery (sleep apnea), a dental guard (teeth grinding) or respective medication for any underlying health problems. The lifestyle changes typically include dietary adjustments (more veggies, less sugar), sticking to a regular sleeping schedule, limiting caffeine consumption, having low carbs for dinner, reducing (or better stopping) tobacco and alcohol intake, adding or increasing exercise to reduce stress and anxiety. Since the consequences of sleep disorders can be very disruptive, affected people would ideally want immediate relief when treated. However, long-term cases may likely take a bit longer. Diagnosed people who stick to their treatment plan can eventually find a way to have better sleep.