WHAT ARE SLEEP DISORDERS?
Sleep is a very complex and essential biological process. While individuals sleep, they are unconscious, but their brain and body functions are still active. They are doing several important jobs that help you be healthy and functional during waking hours. Therefore, when someone doesn’t get good quality sleep, it does more than make them tired. It can affect one’s overall physical and mental health wellbeing.
Sleep disorders are conditions that disturb your standard sleep patterns. There are more than eighty different sleep-related disorders.
Some of the major sleep-related disorder are:
- Insomnia – persistent difficulty falling and staying asleep. According to general estimates, this is a common sleep disorder, as around 3 in 10 adults suffer from some form of insomnia. Examples of such can include confusional arousals, sleepwalking, night terrors, etc.
- Sleep-related breathing disorders – abnormal breathing while the individual is asleep. Examples of such may include obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, sleep-related hypoxemia disorder, etc.
- Sleep-Related Movement Disorders – Unusual and abnormal movements during sleep that can be disruptive for the patient and their partner. This may cause daytime sleepiness or fatigue due to not getting enough sleep. Examples of such are restless leg syndrome, periodic limb movement syndrome, etc.
- Sleep-Wake Disorders – problems with a person’s “internal clock”, which regulates an individuals’ 24-hour sleep-wake cycle. They make an individual unable to sleep or wake-up at the correct times. Examples of such can include sleep-wake disorder, non-24 sleep-wake disorder, jet lag disorder, etc.
- Hypersomnolence Disorders – feelings of sleepiness and fatigue during the day despite a healthy circadian rhythm and adequate amount of sleep the previous night. Examples of such conditions can consist of narcolepsy, idiopathic hypersomnia, etc.
Parasomnia – unusual behaviors that usually occur before sleep, during sleep, or during the transition between sleeping and waking. Examples of such conditions are confusional arousals, night terrors, REM sleep behavior disorder, sleepwalking, etc.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF SLEEP DISORDERS?
One might be suffering from an underlying sleep disorders if they experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- Falling asleep while driving
- Struggling to stay awake when inactive, i.e., while watching television or reading.
- Having difficulty paying attention or concentrating at work, school, or home.
- Having performance problems at work or school.
- Always look sleepy.
- Have trouble with your memory.
- Have slowed down responses.
- Have trouble controlling your emotions.
- Need to take naps frequently, almost every day.
HOW ARE SLEEP DISORDERS DIAGNOSED?
A healthcare provider will ask for the patients’ medical history, their sleep history, followed by a physical exam to diagnose a sleep disorder. The patient may also have a sleep study (polysomnogram). The common types of sleep studies observe and record data about one’s body during a whole night of sleep.
The collected data can include:
- Alternation in brain waves
- Eye movements
- Breathing rate
- Blood pressure
- Changes in heart rate and electrical activity of the heart and other muscles.
Other sleep studies may include how quickly one falls asleep during the daytime naps or whether one can stay awake and alert during the day.
HOW CAN SLEEP DISORDERS BE TREATED?
Sleep disorders can be treated by a variety of treatments. Following are several treatments recommended by healthcare providers:
- Counseling: Sleep specialists recommend therapies like TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation) and CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy). These counseling sessions help one “recognize, challenge, and change stress-inducing thoughts” that may keep them awake at night.
- Medications and/or supplements like melatonin.
- Practice sleep hygiene, such as keeping a particular sleep schedule.
- Creating a regular exercise routine.
- Minimizing noise and light.
- Manage the temperature so that one is comfortable.