The majority of people experience some difficulty falling asleep from time to time. This is usually associated with stress or a poor diet, and more often than not the problem sorts itself out.
However, if you find yourself regularly encountering difficulty trying to sleep then you may be suffering from a sleep disorder.
Sleep disorders can have an extremely negative impact on your waking life, and such disorders can eventually lead to other health problems.
This article will examine some of the more common sleep disorders and detail different countermeasures that can be employed to ensure you have a better sleep.
What is a Sleep Disorder?
Sleep disorder is the umbrella term used to describe a number of problems that can interfere with an individual’s sleeping pattern and prevent them from getting the rest they need.
These problems vary in cause and severity, and while some sleep disorders can be treated with a change in diet or daily routine, with others you may need to consult a medical professional. Sleep disorders affect millions of people around the world on a daily basis.
The best way to determine if you suffer from a sleep disorder or not is by examining the various symptoms associated with this problem. Individuals who suffer often find themselves tired and irritable during the day, and they generally have great difficulty falling asleep at night.
A lack of concentration and enthusiasm in the workplace or at school can be a sign of a sleep disorder, as can poor reaction times.
Sleep disorders tend to manifest themselves physically and you can usually tell by looking at someone’s face if they are well rested or not. Dark circles under the eyes are a tell tale sign.
People who rely on caffeinated beverages to get them through the day often are not receiving the right amount of sleep their body needs.
Types of Sleep Disorder
As previously mentioned, sleep disorder is actually an umbrella term for a variety of disorders and illnesses that affect an individual’s ability to sleep.
As with all disorders some cases are more extreme than others, and a response should be chosen appropriate to how badly the disorder affects the sleeping pattern.
The lesser disorders can be treated by exercising throughout the day and a reduction in certain types of food or drink. The more serious disorders may require drug treatment e.g. sleeping tablets.
Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder in the world today, but is generally the result of another problem such as anxiety or depression.
Insomnia is the inability to get the amount of sleep you need for your body to feel rested and your mind to feel alert when you wake.
The severity of this disorder will vary from person to person, and their daily activities often has an influence into how badly they are affected.
The good news is that the majority of insomnia cases can be treated by simple lifestyle and diet changes, and very few cases need medical treatment.
Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that affects the individual’s ability to control when and where they fall asleep. It generally results in people unintentionally falling asleep during the day or at times other than when they have planned to rest, which can lead to an imbalance and result in general tiredness.
Common symptoms of narcolepsy include starting to drift off while engaged in an activity, hearing and seeing things that are not there (this is when the mind begins to dream), and feeling weak and unable to control your muscles.
Narcolepsy is often unpredictable, and as a result can become dangerous. If you believe you suffer from narcolepsy then you are advised to contact your local Doctor as soon as possible.
This is a very common disorder in which the individual briefly stops breathing whilst asleep. This is a result of the upper airways being blocked, and often causes the sufferer to awake suddenly and in a panic.
The majority of people who suffer from sleep apnea do not recall waking during the night, and are unable to explain the reason for their constant tiredness.
Other symptoms of sleep apnea include loud snoring, gasping or choking during sleep, waking with headaches and chest pains and pauses in breathing whilst asleep.
It should be noted that although most sufferers of sleep apnea are not heavily affected by this disorder, it can become life threatening and all suspected cases should be reported to a Doctor.
There are a number of treatments that can be employed to counter this disorder, including elevating the bed, exercise and wearing a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure mask, which maintains a constant stream of fresh air while the wearer is asleep.
As we can see from above, different forms of sleep disorder require different treatments, and these can range from simply exercising and changing our diets to wearing CPAP masks to help with breathing. One of the best ways to work out which form of treatment is most suitable for you is through use of a sleep diary.
Your sleep diary can be used to record every problem you encounter when trying to sleep, and this information can then be given to your Doctor to pinpoint exactly what is wrong. It’s also important to set out a sleeping routine that you follow for the majority of the week.
Familiarizing your body with a set sleeping pattern will help it relax when it’s time to sleep. Readers are advised to avoid watching television or using laptops and other computer devices at least an hour before they head to bed.
Sleep disorders vary greatly in cause, but most have the same kind of effect. People who suffer from sleep disorders often find it difficult to engage in their day-to-day activities with the same level of enthusiasm and concentration as they normally would.
If you think you suffer from a sleep disorder, try keeping a sleep diary for a week and present it to your local Doctor. With the right information they should easily be able to identify the problem.