When it comes to health, one of the most common issues people face, apart from weight gain, is sleep loss. Studies indicate that people today are sleeping less than in the past. But what causes sleep disorders , and what can one do about them? In this FAQ, we cover everything you need to know about sleep disorders.
Q- What are sleep disorders?
A- Everyone has problems sleeping sometimes. We all find it hard to fall asleep on some nights, find ourselves waking up in the night, or have dreams that disturb our sleep. This is perfectly normal. Often, these problems subside after a short period of time. However, sleep problems that last weeks, months or years, can impact your daily life. Long-term sleep problems can lead to a decrease in energy levels, frequent changes in mood, and reduced concentration. They may start to affect your ability to carry out daily tasks such as studying, working, driving, and carrying out daily chores. They can also affect your relationships and social life.
Q- What are the symptoms of sleep disorders?
A- Some of the common symptoms of sleep disorders are:
- Feeling sleepy and irritable during the day.
- Being unable to concentrate on daily tasks.
- Having difficulty staying awake while driving or sitting still.
- Feeling tired and lethargic during the day.
- Feeling the need to have a lot of caffeinated drinks to get through the day.
If you have observed any of the above symptoms in someone you know, try to speak them about their sleep patterns and suggest that they consult a doctor and discuss their problems.
Q- What causes sleep disorders?
A- There are many different types of sleep disorders and hence a variety of factors that can cause them.
Some of the most common causes are:
- Routine: A poor routine can lead to the development of sleep disorders. Sleeping too early or too late can disturb your sleep cycle.
- Medical conditions: Asthma, heart disease, chronic pains, respiratory infections and many other medical conditions can significantly disrupt sleep.
- Anxiety and depression: Anxiety and depression are commonly known to cause sleep disorders. Stress and excess worry can also cause difficulties in sleeping.
- Drug and alcohol use is known to disrupt sleep patterns.
- Change in circumstances: Working in night shifts or moving to a different time zone, can upset your sleep cycle significantly in some cases.
- General sleep environment: The place where you sleep also affects the quality of your sleep. Sleeping in a noisy, unhygienic room, or on an uncomfortable mattress can also affect sleep.
- Snoring and teeth-grinding are also disruptive to one's sleep.
Q- What are the different types of sleep disorders?
A- There are several types of sleep disorders but the main disorders are listed below:
- Insomnia: When people have trouble falling asleep or maintaining their sleep over a significant period of time, it might be a case of insomnia. Sometimes insomnia can manifest as a result of an underlying condition such as anxiety, stress, depression or a medical illness. It may also be caused due to medication, caffeine intake, and in some cases, even lack of exercise.
- Sleep apnea: Sleep apnea is caused by blockages to the upper respiratory system leading to interruptions in the person's sleep. Snoring can sometimes lead to such interruptions, and even though people don't feel these interruptions while sleeping, they do feel tired and unproductive the next day.
- Restless legs syndrome (RLS): People who have RLS experience an uncomfortable tingling or aching sensation which seems to originate in the legs. The only way to stop this sensation is to move one's leg by stretching or kicking.
- Narcolepsy: Narcolepsy is characterized by extreme daytime sleepiness. The brain mechanism that controls sleeping and waking is affected leading to these disruptions. Sometimes there may be episodes of 'irresistible sleep' wherein a person suddenly falls asleep while talking, working or even driving, which could be quite dangerous.
- Other sleep disruptions: There are various other sleep disruptive issues such as sleep walking, night terrors and nightmares, bed-wetting in children, and jet lag to name a few.
Q- What are the treatment options for sleep disorders?
A- Sleep disorders can pose a serious risk to one's health and safety, especially those who drive automobiles or work with hazardous or dangerous substances. Sometimes, sleep disruptions are short-lived and your body re-adapts to a healthy sleep cycle. However, if the symptoms of sleep disorders persist for a long period of time, you should seek professional help. After ascertaining the nature and seriousness of your sleeping disorder, the doctor will prescribe a treatment plan that may include a combination of medication and therapy. It is essential that you follow this treatment plan properly and monitor your dosages carefully. It is also essential to report any subsequent developments or side effects to your doctor.
Q- How should you care for someone with a sleep disorder?
A- People with sleep problems can become irritable and withdrawn. If you know someone suffering from a sleep disorder, this is what you can do to help:
- You may need to be more patient and understanding when a person suffering from a sleep disorder becomes irritable.
- Create a relaxing environment for them to sleep in. Try to ensure that the environment in the house is calm.
- If your own sleep pattern disrupts their sleep, for instance, if you snore, or sleep at a later time, try to resolve these issues to ensure they are comfortable.
- Help them establish a good sleep routine and encourage positive changes such as an exercise routine or a relaxation routine before settling for sleep.
- Encourage them to seek professional help if the problem persists for a significant amount of time.
This article has been republished with permission from the Other Disorders section of the White Swan Foundation's website.