Do You Have a Sleep Disorder?
Sleep impairment is minimally recognised, but it is an epidemic condition in the modern world. Part of it is that life's high demands and many distractions leave people with less time to sleep, and bad habits can damage the rest that they do get.
However, many people suffer from unrecognised but treatable disorders that interfere with healthy sleep. At a minimum these need attention and lifestyle changes, and some can require medical intervention as well. Could one of these conditions be destroying your sleep?
This is the most common sleep disorder, and one that almost everyone experiences at some point in their life. Chronic insomnia occurs when you regularly have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, leading to waking up feeling tired and unrefreshed by the sleep you did get.
Sleep apnea occurs when breathing stops and starts during sleep. The most common form is obstructive sleep apnea, where the throat muscles relax and block the breathing passages. While snoring is a common symptom of sleep apnea, not everyone with sleep apnea snores. If you don't have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, but if you often wake up tired, with a dry mouth or headache, you may have sleep apnea.
Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)
People with RLS experience uncomfortable sensations in their legs - most often described as burning, skin-crawling, or tingling - that are relieved by frequently moving the legs to different positions. It can occur throughout the day, but people notice it most often when trying to sleep at night. As a result, it can make it difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep, or get good quality rest while sleeping.
Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD)
PLMD is similar to RLS, but where RLS makes the person want to voluntarily move their limbs, PLMD involves involuntary movement such as twitches, jerks, and spasms. A person with PLMD may not even realize that the movements are occurring during their sleep, but it nevertheless disturbs their sleep patterns and leads fatigue, drowsiness, and irritability.
Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS)
Everyone has a circadian rhythm, a natural pattern of sleep and wakefulness over the 24-hour period. People with DSPS have a circadian rhythm, which deviates by half a day, leading to being awake in the wee hours of the night and wanting to sleep in the daytime. Trying to keep to the normal cycle is frustrating and difficult and can seriously affect everything from work to relationships.
All of these conditions can lead to sleep deprivation. In addition to feeling tired and cranky, sleep deprivation lowers your reaction time and can increase risk of injury and car accidents. It undermines the immune system, making you more susceptible to infections. Lack of sleep over the long term is also associated with more serious health conditions.
Thus, it is important that if you have a sleep disorder, you identify it and take steps to deal with it as soon as possible. If you regularly wake up feeling tired, achy, or irritable, discuss it with your doctor to find out what steps can be taken to diagnose and treat your sleep impairment.