Sure, everyone occasionally suffers a poor night's sleep. But if your sleeping difficulties have become more common than not, you may have a sleep disorder.
Sleep problems can take many forms, like too much sleep or too little. The quality of your sleep may leave you tired, less alert and even unsafe.
Understanding the difference between a poor night's sleep and a sleep disorder is essential to your overall well-being.
Factors leading to a poor night’s sleep
There are many reasons you may wake up feeling unrested. Can you identify with any of these common reasons for a poor night’s sleep?
Diet: Eating foods high in sugar or caffeine close to your bedtime have a tendency to cause sleep issues. Avoid spicy foods, particularly those you recall causing some stomach upset.
Stress: If you’re worried about your job, relationship, money or other major life situations, a good night’s sleep may be hard to come by. When the stress in your life leads to three or more sleepless nights a week for three months, it’s time to consult with your physician.
Mental Health Disorders: Short-lived anxiety and depression can play into sleepless nights. Like stress, if your sleeplessness persists for three or more nights a week for three months, it’s time to consult with your physician.
Common sleep disorders
Chronic sleep disorders and intermittent sleep problems — problems that can significantly diminish health, alertness and safety — affect 50 to 70 million Americans.
Here’s a look at some of the most common sleep disorders.
Insomnia: This sleep disorder term describes difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up too early and being unable to get back to sleep.
Sleepwalking: Sleepwalking is a disorder of arousal, meaning it occurs during N3 sleep, the deepest stage of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep.
Nightmares And Night Terrors: These are also known as sleep terrors and are part of a group of sleep disorders referred to as parasomnias. Parasomnias can be categorized by unpleasant experiences during sleep or during sleep-wake transitions.
Headaches: Continuous pain in your head can often be a symptom of a sleep disorder. Lack of restful sleep can have physical effects the next day. As a result, people with sleep disorders often have chronic headaches during the day. Oversleeping can also trigger a headache.
Nocturnal Seizures: These seizures happen while a person is asleep. They can cause unusual nighttime behavior, such as waking for no reason, urinating while sleeping and jerking and shaking the body.
Narcolepsy: Narcolepsy is a chronic sleep disorder that causes overwhelming daytime drowsiness. People with narcolepsy often find it difficult to stay awake for long periods of time, regardless of the circumstances, or how much sleep they had the previous night. Narcolepsy can cause serious disruptions in your daily routine.
Sleep Apnea: Sleep apnea is a potentially serious sleep disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts. There are two main types, obstructive and central—with a third being an unfortunate mix of both. If a sleep partner witnesses you stop breathing, struggling with breathing, or you realize you wake up gasping or choking, see your provider sooner than later. Left untreated, apnea of any type can have a serious impact on many aspects of health.
What you can do
If you're chronically tossing and turning or experience symptoms associated with the most common types of sleep disorders, consider seeing a physician who will listen to you, evaluate your symptoms and work to diagnose the reason behind your lack of sleep. While some sleep disorders are not curable, they are treatable.
Accurate diagnosis of sleep problems begins with a complete evaluation of physical, emotional and mental factors. Sleep diaries, sleep studies at home or in a lab, and other tests can help determine the best treatment for you.
Depending on your problem, a preliminary sleep study may be performed to develop an accurate diagnosis. Then, at a follow-up consultation, your physician will discuss your test results, whether further testing is necessary, or recommend effective treatment options.
Potential sleep disorder treatments
An accurate diagnosis is important to find the right treatment for a sleep disorder. Here are a few of the potential treatment options available for chronic sleep disorders.
- Simple changes in your sleep habits, schedules, and conditions can make a huge difference. This can range from creating a routine schedule for bedtime to hitting snooze on your electronics before bed.
- Changing the types of foods and beverages you consume — including alcohol and tobacco — can have a positive impact on your sleep quality.
- In some cases, dental devices may prove useful. Oral devices, made by a dentist trained in sleep, can reposition the jaw during sleep to help prevent or open an obstructed airway.
- Losing weight and exercising can help improve your sleep quality. Consult with your doctor before beginning any weight-loss program.
- Over-the-counter and/or prescription sleep aids may provide relief, but do not take anything without consulting your provider, or any medication not prescribed specifically for you.
- Manage your stress by taking time to relax and wind down before bed.
- There are also surgical and nonsurgical options for treating an obstructed airway.
Goshen Sleep & Allergy Medicine offers treatment for common sleep disorders, such as insomnia, sleep apnea and narcolepsy. Talk to your primary care provider if you suspect you have a sleep disorder or call 574-534-9911. Goshen Sleep Disorders Center performs sleep studies to diagnose sleep disorders.