Sleep disorders are more common than you may think. In fact, there are more than 70 different kinds of sleep disorders, some of which are very rare. Here are some of the most common sleep disorders
One restless night can ruin your mood and make you feel tired and irritated the next day.
Lack of sleep can also ruin your ability to concentrate and may interfere with your ability to function at home or at work.
Two or more nights with too little sleep will only compound problems and make things worse.
You may be surprised to learn long-term lack of sleep increases the risk of type 2 diabetes.
It may also increase blood pressure and make you more susceptible to heart disease, reduce sex drive, and cause premature aging of the skin.
If you want to look good, feel good, enjoy good health, and generally make the best of your life, trying to function on too little sleep is a big mistake.
Sleep derivation also presents other dangers. If you have to operate machinery, doing so while feeling tired increases the likelihood of accidents. Driving a car can be particularly bad.
It’s also worth noting fatigue was a contributing factor in some of the world’s worst disasters including the nuclear power plant explosion at Chernobyl.
If you have ongoing difficulties with sleeping, it’s a good idea to talk to a doctor or sleep specialist and get some expert advice. It’s no use ignoring the problem and hoping it will go away.
What Will I Learn?
- 1 Common Sleep Disorders Sleep Disorders: Some Causes
- 2 What is Insomnia?
- 3 Some Common Sleep Disorders
- 4 Rare Sleep Disorders
- 5 Concluding Thoughts
Common Sleep Disorders Sleep Disorders: Some Causes
Sleep disorders are generally caused by something interfering with your circadian rhythms or sleep drive.
Wow! Circadian rhythms! That’s very technical-sounding, isn’t it? Don’t worry, I have no intention of trying to blind you with science.
Nevertheless, due to the important role they play in sleep, there was no way I could write an article like this and omit mentioning circadian rhythms.
Circadian rhythms follow a 24-hour cycle. These rhythms primarily respond to light and darkness. For instance, bright light influences circadian rhythms in a way that helps the body maintain an awake state. Lack of light has the opposite effect.
The sleep drive has the job of governing how much sleep you need. The longer you remain awake, the stronger your sleep drive is likely to get.
In a normal scenario, your sleep drive will eventually become so strong it will be impossible to resist.
Unfortunately, certain things can interfere with sleep drive and circadian rhythms.
5 Things that Can Interfere with Sleep – Common Sleep Disorders
1. Drugs and other Medications
Certain drugs and medications can make you feel drowsy during the day and/or keep you awake at night.
Antidepressants can interfere with some people’s sleep pattern too. So can blood pressure medication and painkillers. Some cold remedies can do it as well.
However, some people can use all of these things without experiencing any disruptions in their normal sleep and waking cycles.
We are all different and it’s pretty much just the luck of the draw.
Certain sleep disorders can run in families. Disorders of this kind are often due to mutated genes that prevent your body from releasing the correct hormones and make it harder for it to know whether it should be awake or asleep.
Even if your parents have never had problems of this nature it’s possible your grandparents did or some other family member further back down the line.
3. Caffeine and Other Stimulants
Most energy drinks contain caffeine. Some have additional stimulants as well. Coffee is another source of caffeine.
To a lesser extent, green and black teas contain caffeine too.
Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and affects brain chemistry.
Are you familiar with adenosine? It’s a chemical created in the brain.
When it binds to adenosine receptors it slows down nerve cell activity and makes you feel drowsy. This is an essential part of the normal sleep process.
Caffeine has the ability to bind to the same receptors. When it gets there first it prevents adenosine from being able to do so.
However, instead of slowing down activity caffeine speeds things up. It also increases neuron firing.
This triggers the pituitary gland causing it to release the fight or flight hormone adrenaline. This makes you feel even more mentally active and alert.
Drinking a cup of coffee can help wake you up in a morning and energy drinks can help you to train harder or put more into sports.
The merits of using caffeine in this way are debatable, but you certainly don’t want to consume caffeine within five hours of going to bed – especially if you are pregnant. Doing so may keep you awake.
If you eat a lot of confectionery or other high-calorie foods it may interfere with your ability to sleep normally. The influx of so much extra energy from the sugar can disrupt your sleep drive.
Sugary drinks can do the same thing. Even ones that don’t contain caffeine.
5. Lifestyle Factors
Several different lifestyle factors have the ability to disrupt sleep. Stress is one of them. Be it due to pressures at work, within the family, or something else stress can keep you awake at night.
Pain can stop you from sleeping as well. So can overthinking. In some cases this can go hand-in-hand with stress but feeling overly excited by certain circumstances or events can do it too.
Doing shift work can also interfere with your ability to sleep. It prevents your body from falling into a normal routine.
Working night shifts can be particularly bad. It disrupts circadian rhythms, preventing them from using natural light to regulate your sleep cycle.
Some shift workers will get home late and just fall asleep fully clothed on the couch. These are not ideal conditions for restful sleep.
It goes without saying that drinking alcohol affects snoring. The more you drink the more you are likely to snore.
What is Insomnia?
Insomnia is a catch-all term people tend to use for describing any inability to sleep. Statistics suggest 30% of US population suffer from insomnia
When people struggle to get three nights of sleep per week and the problem continues for three months or more, the condition is referred to as chronic insomnia and it’s not as rare as you may think.
It affects a staggering 10% of the US population.
Some Common Sleep Disorders
1. Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea is a potentially dangerous condition. It can cause you to stop breathing for several seconds while you are asleep. The resulting fall in oxygen levels will generally wake you up.
If you have sleep apnea, you stop breathing due to blockages in your airways. There are a number of ways this can occur.
Aggressive snoring is one of them. It can close your throat.
Weight gain and nasal congestion can also cause sleep apnea – and in turn cause or make snoring worse. As can the type of congestion that often occurs when you have colds, flu, and allergies.
Being overweight and snoring are intrinsically linked. Being overweight is highly likely to make snoring worse.
Sleeping on your back may make sleep apnea worse so, if you have this problem, it’s a good idea to try sleeping in an alternative position.
As already stated, sleep apnea may present certain dangers. This can include, strokes, heart failure, and sudden death.
If you think you may be suffering from sleep apnea, you should make an appointment as soon as possible and share your concerns with a doctor.
There are several treatments available. Depending on your circumstances, your doctor may suggest surgery to remove excess tissue from the back of your throat.
However, not all options are so invasive. A weight-loss diet may be all it takes to stop your sleep apnea for good.
Parasomnia is not a sleep disorder as such. It’s a term that describes several sleep disorders that involve abnormal behavior, movements, emotions, perceptions, and dreams that occur during sleep.
Parasomnia can occur at different levels of sleep. It may happen just as you are dropping off, between different sleep stages, or while you are waking up.
Common forms of parasomnia include:
Sleepwalking used to be known as somnambulism, but the term is rarely used anymore. As you are probably aware, people who sleepwalk have a habit of getting out of their beds and walking around.
This is a common sleep disorder that may affect up to 15% of people.
Sleepwalking episodes may only last for a few seconds or could continue for 30 minutes or longer.
Some sleepwalkers have even left their beds and gone for a drive in their car. However, most sleepwalks last for 10 minutes or less.
Sleepwalking is not without its dangers. People who have this type of sleep disorder may walk into dangerous environments including high places and busy roads and streets.
If you thought you had to be awake to have a midnight feast, think again. You can also do it in your sleep.
Sleep eating can present a number of problems. Weight gain and diabetes are just two of them.
Possibly more worrying still, people who eat during their sleep may consume products or items that are unsafe.
Night terrors is one of the most common sleep disorders. It affects 1.5 million children per year—and that’s just in the US.
It’s not just children though. Estimates suggest 2% of adults suffer from night terrors too.
Night terrors are extremely vivid nightmares. The level of fear they present raises the heart rate and causes a state of panic.
If you suffer from night terrors you may groan or cry out in your sleep. You may even wake yourself up screaming.
REM Behavior Disorder
Although it sounds like a problem that may involve breaking out into a rendition of Everybody Hurts or Shiny Happy People while you are asleep, REM Behavior Disorder is a little more worrying than that.
If you suffer from this form of parasomnia you may begin physically responding to the stimuli in your dreams.
If you are dreaming about fighting, you could start throwing punches. A dream about diving from the high board could cause you to throw yourself out of bed.
Depending on the type of dream you are having, REM Behavior Disorder can be dangerous. Apart from hurting yourself, you may also hurt others.
Sleep paralysis can be a very frightening condition.
It’s a temporary state that may occur in the transition period between sleeping and waking.
In a nutshell, sleep paralysis is a condition when your mind is awake but your body still acts as if you are asleep. This makes it impossible to move.
Sleep paralysis is unlikely to be dangerous, but it can be very unpleasant.
Hallucinations often go hand-in-hand with sleep paralysis. This happens when the brain continues to manifest dream images in your mind.
Estimates vary widely, but some experts believe up to 65% of people may experience sleep paralysis at some point in their lives.
Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless leg syndrome is a neurological condition. It often makes you begin bouncing your legs but can involve other leg movements as well.
Restless leg syndrome prevents your muscles from relaxing. This can make it very difficult to fall asleep.
The condition is sometimes due to iron deficiency. When this is the case, eating more iron-rich food may be enough to make the problem go away.
Jet lag is always the result of travel. It happens when rapid travel between timezones throws your circadian rhythm out of whack.
For instance, flying from London to Vancouver may cause your circadian rhythm to be over nine hours ahead of time.
You could leave London at 5:30 am, spend over 9 1/2 hours on a plane, and then arrive in Vancouver at 7:10 am on the same day.
Your body would feel like it was 3 pm but, in Vancouver, it would still be early morning and you would have a full day ahead of you.
Jet lag can drain you of energy for quite a long time. You may need a one-day recovery period for each timezone you cross.
Cataplexy is a sleep disorder that involves sudden muscle weakness or paralysis. It’s a daytime condition that’s often triggered by laughter and strong emotions.
Cataplexy is the result of an inability to regulate wake and sleeping states.
However, during the episode, there is no sleep.
The afflicted individual often finds themselves on the floor, fully awake but unable to move.
Narcolepsy is a sleep condition that makes you feel extremely tired during the day. It also makes you fall asleep without presenting any warnings at all.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for narcolepsy. However, medications are available that help some people manage the symptoms.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Chronic fatigue syndrome causes you to feel fatigue for long periods of time. This happens irrespective of how much sleep you may have had.
This sleep disorder can have a major impact on the people who have it. It often causes sufferers to lack the energy required to fulfill simple tasks.
Diagnosing chronic fatigue syndrome often takes some time. This is because other common sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea need to be ruled out first.
Rare Sleep Disorders
Although the following sleep disorders are not so common, they can be very distressing for anyone who has them.
Exploding Head Syndrome
People who suffer from exploding head syndrome hear loud sounds in their head during sleep.
It’s been speculated the loud noises sufferers hear may be due to short circuits in the brain’s neural transmitters. However, nobody knows the cause for sure.
Kleine-Levin Syndrome is also called “Sleeping Beauty Syndrome” and not without good reason. It causes people to sleep for 12 to 24 hours at a time.
Despite the Sleeping Beauty association, Kleine-Levin Syndrome is more common in men. Those who have it may have between 2 and 12 episodes per year.
Sexsomnia is a sleep disorder that causes people to respond to sexual impulses during sleep. They may fondle their partner, masturbate, or try to have sex.
Like Kleine-Levin Syndrome, Sexsomnia affects more men than it does women. There is no known cure for the condition.
Sleep disorders are more common than many people realize. The main symptoms are an inability to fall asleep and/or maintain slumber.
However, depending on the disorder in question, a variety of other symptoms may be involved.
Apart from causing exhaustion, many sleep disorders can be very distressing and some of them present dangers.
If you have difficulty sleeping or show any other symptoms that are suggestive of a sleep disorder, the best thing to do is share your concerns with a doctor.
Apart from helping you get to the bottom of the problem, your doctor may be able to recommend medications or treatments that can help.